The Stress Factor: “I was obsessed with the Ivy League”


There’s a chill in the air, coffee in hand. I walk down a cobblestone path as colorful leaves descend around me, ivy trickling down the crevices of historic buildings, buildings with halls that house prodigies: the Ivy League

I always had the expectation I was going to apply and attend an Ivy league school. I had my eyes set on one particular New Jersey bubble: the orange hue of Princeton University, its tiger-like presence irresistible. I remember my first visit, given a tour by a wobbly second-year tiger ecstatic about his perfect school. Let’s call him Bryan. Bryan took us around campus. From showing us Prospect Garden and his favorite study spot, to Firestone Library and its expansive collection (which amount in length from Princeton to Manhattan), to a small church on campus, which makes the yummiest, gooiest platter of cookies (for study-drunk tigers), these elements, whimsical, made me fall in love with the university.

But I quickly realized that Princeton, like its counterparts, is very selective, acceptance unlikely. Unfortunately, this was around the time when I met the infamous Stress Factor: my mental seductress. It pulled me through a whirlwind of anxiety, making my desire to attend the Ivy league 10x. I felt the need to be a part of everything, applying myself and being accepted to dozens of prestigious programs, strategically crafting a resume that screams, “I’m focused, smart, and driven. Want me.” I even went as far as transferring to another school to up my chances of acceptance (to grant myself more opportunities). When I switched schools, I mainly did it for myself, to give myself more college-related options, to show my dedication to success. But a part of me felt giddy about gaining a new edge on my Common Application. 


I’m grateful now for the mindset I gained, even though it originally came from a state of fear, desiring acceptance, to be the “best of the best.” But, I can’t help but feel concerned about my future, now having ended up at a fantastic university, homework assignments no longer, “What’s the next thing to stress about? Should I be?” 

Apart from myself, I can’t help but feel for those who are currently and will soon experience the Stress Factor. As a community of intellectuals, we should be asking, “how can we remove the self-oppressive nature high academic universities indirectly promote when reviewing their applicants and guiding prospective students?” Perhaps, it’s ingrained within the schools’ culture. Or, it’s due to the stress and self-given expectations of others, making one reconsider their priorities and whether or not they’re stressed enough: FOMO (anxiety of missing out). 

As students, we need to realize that (yes) grades and test scores matter to an extent, but realize that your individuality, and uniqueness, should and need to be enough for a university to evaluate. There’s only so much you can do in the college process. As long as you know that you gave your application your all, that’s what matters. And if you don’t get into your dream school, as cheesy as it sounds, it wasn’t meant to be. Pity the school that didn’t take you, and commend the ones that do. It takes a certain amount of maturity and independence to realize that some schools aren’t the right fit for you because many universities will base their acceptance on “would this student fit nicely in our community?” 

Trust the process, don’t stress yourself out, live your high school years to the fullest, and get involved with activities that spark your interests because, in the end, that’s what universities, especially nowadays, truly value.