Senior Year Brings Stress, Expenses

To all those who told me that senior year would be easy, I greatly despise you. I came into senior year anticipating only fun and no stress, but the only thing that is keeping me from feeling like a dead body is the amount of stress I have buried inside of me.

I was not the only one that was poorly prepared for this year- my wallet also took a devastating blow.

Why is senior year so expensive? I never realized how much money being a senior would cost, but I was definitely shocked.

Just for a small taste, here is a list: SAT/ACT test fees, fees to send SAT/ACT to a college, college application fees, CSS, AP test fees, parking permits, cap and gowns, class rings, senior portraits, senior graduation invitations and a senior page in the yearbook.

The costs could easily pile up to be hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and this is on top of all other regular expenses like lunch or gas.

I have taken the SAT three times and the ACT twice, which is not a lot considering I only had to take the tests five times. However, the combined cost of fives tests turned out to be a ridiculous amount of $305.

This is not the end. After taking the tests, colleges require official test reports from SAT/ACT to be sent.

So this is an additional $12 from SAT or $13 from ACT to send the scores to the individual colleges. If I were to send my ACT score to a small number of five schools, it is already $65 I have to spend.

Speaking of colleges, there is something called a college application fee which can range from an astounding $30 to $90.

Senior Jason Choi said, “I had to pay on average about $70 per college and I applied to 13 schools. I didn’t have to pay for 3 of them so I paid about $700 on college applications alone.”

I understand if colleges have that application fees to discourage students who are applying just for the sake of applying or to waste time, but it also discourages many other potential students.

I personally passed off a handful of applications to good schools because of their burdensome application fee. There are many schools who do provide fee waivers but they are not as common as they should be.

Not only are there fees for college applications, but there are also fees for those who are applying for financial aid. There are some services, like FAFSA, that are free but there are others, like the CSS Profile, that charge a ridiculous fee.

The CSS Profile is a service that collects financial information for colleges. However, just to send that information to one school, it takes $16.

If you were to send it to five schools, that is already $80, not including the one-time $25 fee.

I think that it is completely unfair to ask students who are already financially struggling to pay that much just to ask for financial aid. We also have to include the fact that even if you request financial aid, it is not always given.

So sometimes, it is just throwing money down the drain.

When asked about his perspective on the issue of paying for financial aid, Choi said,

“It’s definitely smart on the company’s part. But it’s all about investment. Even if I pay $200-300 on financial aid applications, if I get a full-ride scholarship out of that, that’s worth well over $30,000 per year. You just have to be smart about it, but generally it’s not fair cause it definitely limits your opportunities if you’re on a lower income because you can’t pay for as much.”

Senior Tyler Jang said, “Thankfully I don’t have to pay for all this personally but the burden that this puts on families can be very discouraging. It discourages students from taking AP tests or applying to colleges and it just really restricts your options.”

The amount of money that it takes to be a college-bound senior in high school is tremendous and is very burdensome. It often makes you wonder if it is all worth it.

Not only was there the financial trouble but the amount of stress I had during my first semester as a senior is beyond words.

First semester of senior year was especially stressful as I had much more responsibilities and tasks that needed to be done compared to years before. As a senior, I was now in a position where I was leading clubs instead of just participating.

Choi, the co-founder and President of Interstellar Society, said,

“My friend Tyler and I, we spend a lot of time together preparing for [Interstellar Society] actually. We usually try to meet up once a month and take a whole day to prepare everything because we try not to be generic. It takes a lot of time.”

Personally, I had obligations as Senior Class President and President of Key Club. After four hours of homework, I would work on the tasks that I had to complete for my leadership position.

I then had other obligations with other clubs, volunteering activities, youth group and work. I also had college applications that required additional hours to work on the dozens of essays and financial aid applications.

On top of that I had friends that I would hang out with, trying to actually enjoy my last year with my friends.

Everything was just going all at once and once in a while, I had to stop and remind myself to breathe.

Senior Alice Ma said, “Academically, junior year was the hardest because that’s when I took my hardest classes and stressed out a lot. But overall, including extra-curricular activities, senior year is more difficult. That’s because of the college applications and all the stuff that we have to get done before graduating. Junior year, I only had to focus on school but this year I have to think about school, graduating, college and scholarships. I still have one more college application left to do.”

This all makes me wonder, does it have to be this hard? Is it supposed to be like this?

Choi gave a wonderful suggestion to my troubles.

He said, “This school in New York, I think, they get an entire week of school of break. That’s where in-class they work on college apps with English teachers and so on and so forth. It’s just a week to pile on for seniors. If I had been given that opportunity I would’ve been much less stressed and a lot more motivativated to do them.”

I shared this information with some of my peers. Jang said,“That needs to be a thing. Personally in December I just had a ton of stuff to do. I had homework, projects, finals, and obviously deadlines for colleges. Everything was just going on all at once and it really impaired the quality of my work and the quality of my essays, which are my chances of getting into some of these schools.”

I think that this is something that all schools should give to their seniors. It gives us time to recuperate from our tiring schedules and only focus on our college applications.

If we have that week, we can get it done quickly and with good quality, which leaves us to be able to focus on schoolwork and extracurriculars. This would have a major impact on the overall stress level of seniors and be a significant help.

Looking back to just a couple months ago, I do not know how we were all doing it. But at the end of the day, senior year is definitely going to be one of the books.