Seniors Have a Lot on Their Plates Amidst College Application Season

Inez Goering, Sports Editor, Staff Writer

Charlottesville High School has one of the highest graduation rates in all of Virginia’s public schools, and as a result, a high number of students applying to colleges. In a poll sent out to CHS seniors, 94% of respondents claimed they plan to attend a 4-year college or university. But it’s not so simple: each student has to submit an application to every school they wish to have a chance to attend, and every application is different. That requires lots of writing, advising, and paperwork.

CHS seniors have expressed a mix of stress and excitement about the application process. College marks a new beginning for students in their educational careers, and provides opportunities that are hard to find elsewhere. However exciting this may be, the pressure to find the right school combined with unpredictable admissions is a recipe for stress.

A CHS twelfth grader expresses his swarmed state of mind: “It’s not easy. It’s definitely really exciting, it’s a whole new thing, new horizons, you know. But you have to start thinking about what career path you want to pursue.”

Other students agree that it’s not easy. Some claim it’s “too much work” and that there are too many steps to apply to just one school, but that’s just what it takes to be a college applicant.

Although individual students feel overwhelmed and that certain parts of the application process aren’t working as planned, the overall consensus among seniors is that the CHS community (being students, teachers, counselors, and advisors) is working well together. This is a strikingly different opinion from the senior class of 2021, who felt left in the dark by CHS during virtual school.

When asked in a survey, “What has gone well in the application process?”: many students bragged about how helpful teachers and counselors have been with writing and revising essays. Twelfth grade English teacher Ms. Showalter hosts the writing center during BKT where students can stop by and get extra help on their writing. This is a great place to go for students in need of extra help on college essays.

When asked, “What is going poorly?”: almost every complaint received had to do with Naviance, a portal the school uses to manage transcripts and letters of recommendation. The purpose of using Naviance is to keep all parts of the application that don’t appear on Common App or Coalition App in the same portal. Here students can request their needed documents and select the schools they want to send them to. The frustration expressed by students spawns from the portal’s inability to keep up with requests, and continuous display of inaccurate information. One student says, “it has been glitchy and inconsistent.” Counselors and teachers are on the other side of the portal fulfilling requests, and have conveyed similar discontent with the forum. 

The spotlight is on the seniors during this time, but the show cannot go on without the key act: counselors. A counselor’s job is to help students figure out if they want to go to college, and if they don’t, what path they want to follow after graduation. Because many CHS students plan to attend a college, counselors have lots of work to do this time of year. David Wilkerson, CHS school counselor says, “Close to half my time is spent on something to do with college applications because there are just so many details.”

Wilkerson is responsible for about 250 students in the school, a quarter of them seniors. He often writes recommendation letters for these seniors, which he claims is his favorite part of applications. “I get to give colleges the best image of the student so they can make an informed decision about admissions,” Wilkerson states, “I refuse to write the same letter over and over again. Every letter should speak intrinsically to who the student really is, and offer insight that they won’t be able to present in the rest of their application.”

Kalea Obermeyer is another crucial ingredient in the recipe for college success. As the acting college advisor at CHS, Kalea gives socioemotional support to students as they plan for post-graduation. About half of her time is spent hands-on with students, the other half working behind the scenes in program planning. 

“I love one-on-one engagement because I’m all about building relationships with students and creating that trust,” Kalea expresses, “but there are so many students so it’s hard to keep up with the demand.”

Given the pandemic, Kalea and the counselors’ main focus has been on catching seniors up. Kalea addressed the underclassmen’s dissatisfaction with their decision to spend less time talking to them about college: “it’s hard to break the cycle and know when to start working with the younger students.”

A big factor in college decision-making is cost, and despite political agendas aimed to lower that cost, the prices to attend universities are still rising. The amount of students who are unable to pursue their dream college, or who are spending their lives paying off college debt is creating a nationwide epidemic.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form designed for students to apply for financial aid and help college become affordable. In 2021, CHS was first in the state for the number of FAFSA completions per school, revealing that students here are proactive and premeditated in their future. Kalea Obermeyer is a great resource for information about the FAFSA and will help students understand and fill out the form.

All of the necessary moving parts are to prepare students to take the leap and apply to colleges, and CHS offers many resources to aid this process. Every soldier has to do his part to win the battle, and you can enter the draft at any time.