BCA: A Highly Stressed High School

Abby Saks, Writer

By Abby Saks

When walking through the hallways of Bergen Academies, it is very likely that you will hear at least some mention of colleges. When December rolls around every year, and students start to hear back from their early decision colleges, the tension felt by all of BCA’s students, including those who are not seniors, is nearly tangible. Almost everyone begins to buzz about who got into where and what they had to do in order to do so. Whispers circulate throughout BCA about the students who had been accepted into Ivy League schools, spreading information about their grades, extracurriculars, and even socioeconomic statuses. Naturally, this leads to a common feeling of anxiety amongst most students, making it so that, in a survey done on 113 BCA students, over approximately 50% of students who answered would rate the stress they feel about college to be four or higher on a scale of one to five. Similarly, in the same survey over 25% of students say that they hear others talking about college three or more times a day, and 13% say that they themselves talk about college at that same frequency. 

Many attribute this to the atmosphere of BCA, one which places a huge emphasis on college rankings, grades, and SAT/ACT scores, among many other college-admissions-related factors. To some, this is reinforced through weekly guidance seminars. In fact, only 63.7% of those surveyed believe these seminars to be helpful, meaning that more than a third of students find them either harmful or unnecessary. When both sides were asked to elaborate on their responses, the answers were polarizing. Some said that the seminars are very informative and reassuring; they are beneficial as it gives students knowledge on how to do things like write a cover letter or a resume. One student even called their guidance seminar an “eye-opener.” Others, however, found them “redundant”, “very generic”, and “a waste of time”. A few even claimed that they make students more stressed, with one saying that this is simply

Pictured above are three charts that represent data acquired from a survey completed by 113 BCA students.

because of  “the way people think about college at this school”.

Another student said, “half of it was telling us ‘not to be stressed’ and the other half was telling us ‘don’t apply to lottery schools because you won’t get in.’” The term “lottery schools” is a nickname given to prestigious universities that have such low acceptance rates, generally lower than 15%, that applying to them is like entering a lottery.

Another contributor to the stress about college for some BCA students is the pressure placed upon them by their family. When asked if family contributes to their stress, 42.5% said yes and 33.6% said maybe, with 23.9% giving a definite no. Some family members focus solely on getting their child into “bumper sticker colleges”, which are the prestigious, well-known universities like Harvard and MIT that people will go to simply for their reputation and for bragging rights. Evidently, however, based off of the survey’s results, the blame for students’ preoccupation with college should not be placed entirely on family members. Instead, factors such as guidance seminar, the teachers, and the BCA atmosphere in general should be taken into consideration.

This immense concern about college causes some students to even participate in certain extracurriculars solely for college, with 15.9% of surveyors claiming to do so. They cited examples such as clubs, NHS, sports, volunteer work, academic competitions, and research. One student, however, expressed a dislike for doing extracurriculars only for college applications.

“Doing extracurriculars to get into college isn’t enjoyable – it diminishes the value of growing up and spending your time doing something you won’t focus on,” they said. “If you do an activity ‘solely’ to get into college, then it implies that you aren’t enjoying it. If that’s the case, then why do it at all? Building a resumé is always good, but not if it’s something you’re not interested in. If you don’t know what’s interesting, just do what’s fun.”

Regardless, some students will most likely continue to participate in extracurriculars to jazz up their college applications. Similarly, the BCA atmosphere will continue to place a huge amount of emphasis on where its students go to college, but, in the future, hopefully without some of the competition and hearsay that it currently has.