College Competition: Comparing Yourself to Others


Althea Millman (12th), Reporter

Every year around November, Seniors throughout the country begin to feel the pressure and stress of applying to college; our very own Pitman High School is no different.

From the start of their high school career, respectable adults tell students to think about what they want to do with their lives and which college would most benefit them in making it happen. Year after year, students struggle to keep a high-grade point average (GPA) whilst involved in a variety of clubs and other extracurriculars in the efforts to build the best and most impressive resume for their college applications.

By the time applying to college rolls around, students are armed with a cavalry of numerical representations of their high school success, such as GPA, SAT or ACT scores, AP scores, and even the number of extracurriculars with which they’re involved.

Since the majority of the college application process relies heavily on these numbers, it becomes incredibly easy for students to compare their assets to those of their peers. And before you know it, with the stress of applications on their shoulders, students fall into the trap of feeling inferior to their peers because their SAT score is lower or they weren’t involved in as many clubs.

The interviewee and fellow Senior, Sydney Cantwell, discussed how she has herself fallen into this trap, saying, “…when I look at my SAT score compared to some other people who I know have lower GPAs than me, it’s hard…”

Comparing yourself to others is a very normal human quality that is bound to happen on occasion. However, the competitive nature and specific numerical requirements of college applications have made this incredibly more common and cultivated especially an unhealthy environment among students.

“It’s such a different kind of stress than any other stress,” Cantwell expresses.

Before students can even begin to further their education, they must compete with the people they have grown up with for years. The mental consequences of that can be disastrous. Not to mention, that the competitive culture surrounding applications makes students feel like they are behind or inferior to their classmates before they even get on campus.

Even if students manage to get through applications without feeling bad about themselves, it is almost impossible for them to get through without at least comparing themselves in some way.

Cantwell shares the different forms of these comparative habits by explaining that, “Sometimes knowing that I am involved in quite a few things does reassure me, knowing that I do look better than some of my other peers because I know they aren’t as involved in other things. But sometimes I look at other people who are involved in different things than I am and I wonder ‘would colleges rather see that than what I’m doing?’”

When it comes down to it, though, there is not much that will at any time soon change within the college application process; therefore, the best thing for students is to be aware that every person has their own strengths and weaknesses. You can not be summed up by a number, no matter how many colleges try. Every person has different things to offer, and every college is looking for different attributes, so do not get caught up comparing yourself to someone when you’re entirely different people.

After all, as Cantwell so well puts it, “They don’t know me as a person. They just know me through the screen.”