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High School Students and Their Worries about Postsecondary Education

By Kalpita Gangwar


TW: mentions of mental health



Postsecondary education: the monster that lurks underneath every high school student’s bed, waiting for the right time to jump out, grab their feet, and drag them to the depths of adulthood. There is no escape from the beast, and many people believe it’s futile to discuss their worries.


However, it’s a crucial part of a person’s journey to address the concerns secondary students hold about the future of their education, because it often indirectly determines their quality of life: will they feel happy with their decision or will it lead to a deteriorating mental health situation?


A few high school students, of varying ages and located in varying places, were surveyed about the worries they have concerning postsecondary education, and the results are quite interesting. A sophomore in Ontario, Ruhi Jajal, who is part of the regional Advanced Placement program that her district offers has graciously allowed her response to be the central focus of this survey.


The first order of business is to take a look at the application process for being accepted into the Advanced Placement program. As someone who is part of this program, I can tell you that it wasn’t an easy decision to choose AP—it took a lot of time and consideration, and it definitely triggered indecisiveness in many young 8th graders.


There were two stages for the selection of new AP students: the written portion and the random selection process.


Firstly, to apply for the AP class of 2025, you were to submit your middle school transcript and write a response to an essay question. In past years, students also needed to complete an exam, but due to the conditions of the pandemic, that requirement was waived. However, there are rumours that it will be reinstated soon, which is something to keep in mind for budding high school students that wish to be part of this program.


After submitting the requirements, the applicants waited for a few months to hear if they had been accepted into the program. They would have received one of the three emails: a congratulations email for being accepted, an email informing that they were put on the waiting list, or an email expressing deepest regrets. Personally, I was one of the students that was put on the waiting list, but my number was quite high, so I was able to secure a spot in the program.


Once accepted into Advanced Placement or another program, the pressure begins to build to decide whether or not postsecondary education was the best choice, and if it was, which institution and major would be the best fit. Although it’s not as pressing of an issue for freshmen and sophomores, it’s still a good idea to slowly think about the years after high school.


The first step to doing this is to understand the difference between university and college. For sophomore Ruhi, that difference is that universities offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, whereas colleges only offer undergraduate programs, which is absolutely correct!


A few other differences include the fact that universities are often more expensive than colleges, and colleges tend to focus on career skills and application-based programs, while universities are more centered toward providing educational and theory-based programs.


After acknowledging the benefits and drawbacks of each type of institution, the next decision to make is if you wish to complete your postsecondary education, and Jajal’s response is that she does wish to do so. Knowing that, she’s settled on attending a university after she graduates high school, as many students that are part of the AP program have chosen.


As their senior year approaches, high school students often become more and more worried about their postsecondary education, and one of their biggest concerns, according to Ruhi, is that the student will not meet their top institution’s criteria, or that someone with a more promising application will be given top priority. This is a completely valid concern, but it’s also important to remember that there are cases when the student was simply too qualified for the institution, and the admission officers believed that there was a very small chance the applicant would choose their university or college.


Finally, another minor concern that Ruhi Jajal holds about postsecondary education is her grades not being “good enough” to get into her university of choice, which has not yet been chosen. As a sophomore, there is still plenty of time for her to improve her grades if she believes that they aren’t where she would like them to be, but institutions also take into consideration your community service and extracurriculars. Some would argue that those are just as important as your transcript, as they show your involvement with your community and display your eagerness to take initiative, showcasing your skills and interests at the same time.


Overall, as Ruhi Jajal has graciously displayed, many high school students are on the path to pursuing postsecondary education, and they have many things planned, but it’s normal to be apprehensive about some things regarding the future, especially when they have the ability to determine the course of much of your life. The important thing is to take a deep breath, research the benefits and drawbacks of each plan, and try to find something that will align with your values and goals.


You got this! The decision may not be easy, but it will be the right one for you!


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