When Puyallup High School senior Haley Keizur was chosen as one of The Seattle Times’ Student Voices last spring, she knew that the topic she was interested in writing about was the college application process.
She knew, because she would soon be in a position of applying herself, and she knew just how stressful it could be.
“I wanted to talk about that because a lot of adults don’t understand how difficult and competitive it is today,” Keizur said.
I wanted to talk about that because a lot of adults don’t understand how difficult and competitive it is today.
Haley Keizur, senior at Puyallup High School
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Keizur, who grew up going to Puyallup schools, wrote about her research into the college application process and the fine line between “healthy stress” and being overworked as part of The Seattle Times’ Education Lab’s Student Voices program, where high school and college students write about education issues.
The application process is more rigorous than it used to be, Keizur said, and David Rosdahl, a counselor at Emerald Ridge High School, agreed.
“I think things are more competitive today for students,” Rosdahl said. “It’s not just about grade point anymore — it’s SAT, ACT, the course you’re taking, the rigor of the courses that you’re taking.”
I think things are more competitive today for students. It’s not just about grade point anymore—it’s SAT, ACT, the course you’re taking, the rigor of the courses that you’re taking.
David Rosdahl, counselor at Emerald Ridge High School
More seniors are being pressed to join clubs and activities they might not be interested in just to make them seem more well-rounded, which can cause undue stress. Keizur said she’s seen this up close and personal, and has talked about her own experience in clubs and community service.
Keizur has a lot on her plate, but said she’s one of the lucky students that has the time to do everything she likes. Keizur is editor-in-chief of the Puyallup High School newspaper, The Viking Vanguard. She’s in band, runs cross-country, is in Honors Society, participates in YoungLife, is on the Communities in Schools board and is co-coordinator for March Gladness.
Keizur, who wants to go on to study journalism, applied to eight colleges: the University of Washington Tacoma, Western Washington University, Washington State University, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara University, Stanford, University of California, Berkeley and the University of Southern California.
Keizur found that not all of those colleges run their application processes the same, meaning students spend unnecessary time re-typing classes and activities into different applications.
And the role of technology has made it so that more activities can be listed on applications, pushing students to do more, even if their high schools don’t offer specific clubs or activities. For example, Keizur said that some schools offer honors classes at the junior high level — something that didn’t exist when she was in junior high.
“What’s actually offered at schools versus what is required has increased,” she said.
What’s actually offered at schools, versus what is required has increased.
Haley Keizur, senior at Puyallup High School
But the Puyallup School District does offer some resources for students facing the challenging process of college applications. In December, the school board agreed to alter the “Culminating Project” that all seniors must complete to a “High School and Beyond Plan,” where, instead of creating student portfolios, the plan highlights specific goals for the student following graduation.
The district also offers scholarships, post-high school planning nights, financial planning nights, career fair field trips and annual senior check-ins, where counselors periodically check in to see what stages seniors are at in their post-high school plans.
“It’s a huge process and sometimes it can be a bit challenging and cumbersome … But there’s also excitement there and that’s what I really love about my role as a counselor,” Rosdahl said.
Elementary students in the district are already hearing about college, Rosdahl added, and he encourages students and families to reach out if they have questions.
There’s always more that could be done to help students in their college endeavors, Keizur said — even if it’s just being informed of the application process and being supportive.
“I think just being aware of that, so if you know a student in your life, to foster the healthy stress,“ Keizur said.
And for students that come after her, Keizur suggested finding mentors and getting into time management habits — but also taking the time to take care of yourself.
“Don’t stress. It’ll get done if you put your mind to it,” Keizur said.