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The Forest Scout

The Student News Site of Lake Forest High School

The Forest Scout

The Student News Site of Lake Forest High School

The Forest Scout

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A Breath of Fresh Air

Sometimes the dreaded “waitlist” can be a relief
Graphic+made+by+Emma+Stadolnik+on+Canva.
Graphic made by Emma Stadolnik on Canva.

Just last Friday, my parents and I eagerly gathered around the computer. My final college decision, which also happened to be my “dream school,” had just released results. After five months of anxiously waiting, refreshing, and wondering, I finally clicked the button. 

Only to see a giant “waitlist” appear.

As someone who applied to 15 colleges, took the ACT multiple times, and loaded up on difficult classes – something many of my classmates can likely relate to – not getting the results I originally hoped for felt like the end of the world. 

Confused, upset, and frustrated, I went to bed that night thinking I would start the next morning in that same awful mood.

To my surprise, I woke up the next morning feeling relieved. While the sting of the previous night’s news still lingered, I felt free – for the first time in months- from the chaos that is the college admissions process. 

While the sting of the previous night’s news still lingered, I felt free – for the first time in months- from the chaos that is the college admissions process. 

No more anxious waiting, waiting, and waiting for decisions, no more questioning what more I could have done, and no more basing my self-worth off of decisions that are made completely out of my control. 

Today, the college process is more complex and unreliable than ever before. In 2024, the amount of applications in the US increased by 6% from the previous record, which was set just last year. This influx of applications combined with ambiguous standardized testing policies has resulted in plummeting acceptance rates, decreasing odds of admission for many college-bound seniors. 

At LFHS, talk about college seems to start as early as sophomore year. We spend nearly three years dedicating ourselves to this process: sleepless nights finishing homework, preparing for standardized tests, being involved in every extracurricular possible, all for the hope of seeing digital confetti illuminate our computer screens one day in March.

The college application season is undeniably exhausting. While in the middle of the process, it is easy for your mind to fixate on one goal, one school, one outcome. It may even feel like every milestone is merely a stepping stone to get you to that place. And if that one situation doesn’t work out how you wanted, what next? Was everything a waste?

Photo created by Emma Stadolnik on Canva.

When you don’t get the results you want, it is normal to wonder if all the work was even worth it. I thought the same, too. But, now that I have made it out of the application process, I realize that nothing I did throughout my high school career was a “waste,” it just led me to a completely different path than the one I originally thought of. Now, I realize that the activities  I was involved in, the classes I took, and the people I interacted with during my time here have shaped me as an individual. Ultimately, it is these things – not the school I ultimately end up at – that will define me as a person.

There are so many factors in college admissions that are wildly out of the applicant’s control. It was hard for me to accept the fact that getting a rejection was not necessarily a reflection of my capabilities, rather a result of each college having specific needs. Nonetheless, from the months of September to March, I felt like a large part of my life was being controlled by random admissions officers. 

That morning when I woke up and felt relief, I realized that it was because I was in control again, not the colleges, not other external factors. I thought I would be absolutely crushed after not getting into my top school – and while it still upsets me – I also found myself positively reflecting over the past few months. I realized I was proud of how far I had come. I was even excited about the future and what it had to offer.

I finished my first application in September and heard back from my last school in the final days of March. Seven months is a long time, and, throughout that time, I have changed as a person. As high schoolers, we may think we know everything about ourselves and what we want for our future, but the reality is that we are still growing every day and learning new things about the world around us. 

Since completing my applications this fall, I have developed a clearer understanding of what I want to do with my future, thought more about what I actually want in a school, and have even reflected on what learning environments benefit me most. My evolution as a student didn’t stop when I hit submit on my first application. I have grown and changed as a student and person in these last seven months and realized that my dream school was just that… a dream. 

If you told me all this a week ago, while I was still in the midst of the whole process, I wouldn’t have believed you. It is easy, and even normal, to develop a negative mindset while waiting for decisions – I know I did. But now that those crazy months are over, I suddenly have more clarity over who I am as a person and what I want to do in the future.

Juniors, the college application season can be an incredibly stressful time. Remember that stress is in your control – don’t let the process have power over you. Allow yourself to be proud, excited, and upset, embracing all the other emotions that come with college admissions.

You likely won’t believe that everything will work out until you go through this process yourself, make it out the other side, and realize that it really isn’t the end of the world if things don’t pan out as planned. It took me seven months, 15 applications, and dozens of essays to realize this, but it is not the end of your life if you don’t get into your dream school. In fact, it is just the start of something new.

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About the Contributor
Emma Stadolnik
Emma Stadolnik, Editor-in-Chief
Emma Stadolnik is a senior and is so excited to be returning to The Forest Scout, this time as an Editor-in-Chief! Around LFHS, you can find her on the volleyball court as captain of the varsity team, or at GIVE club! She enjoys singing to country music, spending time outside, and listening to good podcasts. Edit
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