Guest commentary: For high school juniors, college all of a sudden is getting a lot closer

Sophia Benito
(Provided by Sophia Benito)

Sophia Benito is a junior at La Jolla High School and an editor for the school newspaper, the Hi-Tide. She is writing a periodic column this school year about happenings at her school and what’s on the minds of herself and other local students.

As the first semester of the school year ended and winter break commenced in December, early college decisions for seniors began to be posted online. While I am overjoyed for my upperclassmen friends who have been accepted to their top schools, I dread the expectations for the year to come.

For juniors like me, college is much closer than it had been before.

For most of my grade, it was a passing thought, and now in less than a year, the class of 2024 will send in their applications. Junior year is often said to be the most stressful and important year of high school. I am beginning to see that this is true.

On top of regular classwork and later Advanced Placement tests, we have to consider taking the SAT or ACT as well as other opportunities to aid our application. For most, college is constantly on our minds.

But of course, this depends on the student. I know some who are in no to hurry to prepare, and others who have been doing all they can, especially during winter break, to raise their chances of getting into a top university.

I have noticed that college is a frequent topic of discussion. I hear about all the ventures that friends and other students have been pursuing: starting nonprofits, volunteering, internships. Those kinds of activities now seem to be expected by schools, and grades are but one factor in college acceptance.

A solid history of character-building activities such as a sport or community service is now required on top of being a good student. I always plan to pursue different things at the start of the year and only accomplish a few due to strenuous assignments and high-grade weighting on tests for certain classes.

Due to these expectations, high schoolers’ personal pursuits and endeavors are now seen as just for college. If a student starts a nonprofit, everyone assumes it is simply to boost the resumé. The same goes for joining academic clubs and other such activities.

With my first year of high school entirely online and then being on campus for the first time as a sophomore, college feels too soon. I have been looking forward to the classes I wish to take and being independent from parental control. It is the college application process I am apprehensive about.

What I pursue now over the course of 2023 will determine where I further my education and is crucial to my acceptance. I can only hope I can make the most of this important time and manage it wisely.

Sophia Benito lives in the Muirlands West area of La Jolla. Her family has lived in La Jolla since the 1950s. Sophia is interested in journalism as her future profession and occasionally writes for online teen publications.