Stressed out! College season is here and Urban seniors scramble for support

Max Miller, Sports Editor

Over 99% of Urban students matriculate to college. To put that number in perspective, the national college matriculation rate among high school graduates is just 69.1% according to the Education Data Initiative. These numbers, however, don’t seem to soothe the fears of Urban students. An anonymous survey of 40 Urban seniors showed that 88% of seniors have higher-than-normal levels of stress surrounding college applications. Of those students, 57.5% said that their stress levels were at least almost too much to manage.

“Stress is definitely unavoidable when planning for college,” said Ellie Howell ‘22. However, the prominence of that stress at a school like Urban, where college matriculation is nearly certain, begs the question: Does Urban’s environment enhance stress levels in seniors?

There are three college counselors at Urban, and each grade has about 105 students. That means each counselor has 33-35 students that they are responsible for. As a result, it is inevitable that the numerous needs of Urban students cannot be met immediately. As the results of the survey showed, not all Urban students are able to grapple with the suspense of waiting for answers.

“Urban is so competitive that an At Standard correlates to a B. So of course the college admissions process comes with a similar insatiable desire to succeed,” said Howell. Some Urban parents have decided to get an outside college counselor in order to combat this stress, rather than solely relying on in-school counselors. A survey of 40 Urban students demonstrated that nearly 20% of Urban seniors have or previously have had a private college counselor.

Three Urban seniors, O’reilly Andrews, Avery Jankens, and Lacy Rogers, whose names have been changed for anonymity, say that their parents were the main factors in the decisions to get a college counselor outside of Urban. “It’s not something I really asked for, it’s just my parents wanted me to have another one out of school. That’s what all my siblings did,” Rogers said.

Both Rogers and Andrews said that they didn’t have a say in whether or not they received a private college counselor. “My mom kinda decided out of nervousness that I should get a counselor,” said Andrews.

Willow Brown ‘22, says that a lot of her parents’ stress came from their own college experiences. “I feel like my parents have pushed their own goals onto me. My dad went to an HBCU [Historically Black College or University] and loved it, so he wants the same for me. It’s not bad stress, they just really like to be involved,” said Brown. Though Brown does not have a counselor outside of Urban, she understands the rationale behind parents’ decisions to get their kids outside-of-school counselors. When looking towards the next round of applications, Brown said, “I’m definitely going to ask for help outside of my Urban counselors. I feel like if I let people who I have developed stronger connections with read my applications, I will receive feedback that better suits me.”

Though it was not their decision, Jankens, Andrews, and Rogers all have enjoyed the extra support that they have received from their private counselors. “I like how honest my college counselor is compared to the Urban college counselors,” said Jankens. “I’m a very realistic person and would rather them tell me what schools are really possible for me, rather than something that could blow up in my face.” She said she understands that college counselors at Urban have more of an obligation to be supportive, but she has valued the extra support that her outside of school counselors have given to her. “I like that I have their undivided attention,” she went on to say.

In some SFUSD schools, there is only one college counselor for a grade of 400 students. The most common complaint from Urban students in a survey of 40 seniors was that the in-school counselors did not respond to them fast enough or know them well enough. There seems to be a disconnect between Urban students’ desire to have their needs met quickly and the reality of the privilege of their situations.

82% of Urban students do not have a college counselor outside of Urban, the vast majority of whom —according to the same survey of 40 students —have enjoyed the support they have received from those counselors. Urban equips students with the skills and counseling they need to attend top universities. According to Urban’s website, the top five schools that Urban students have attended in the past four years are Northeastern, NYU, Brown, UCLA and Wesleyan. Each of those schools have acceptance rates under 20%. Urban’s stellar college matriculation record can largely be attributed to its college counseling program.

At Urban, there is stigma around having a private college counselor. “I often hear my friends saying things like ‘my counselor hasn’t gotten back to me on this,’” said Rogers. “That’s not something I necessarily have to worry about.” She fears the things she receives from her private college counselor may be perceived as unfair advantages by her peers. She went on to say, “I don’t tell a lot of people because I don’t want people to think I’m snobby. And I haven’t told my Urban college counselor because I don’t want them to think that I don’t appreciate them.”

Though the stress surrounding college admissions at Urban is quite prominent, it may be helpful for some to know that the college process —similar to many other American processes— inherently benefits the privileged. Jankens recognizes her privilege, as well as her parents’ motives. “When they were growing up, [my parents] didn’t have the resources that they do now,” she said. “They want to be sure that I can be successful without having to go through as much stress as they did, which I do acknowledge is very privileged.”