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College Anxiety: When Your Life Doesn’t Add Up To a Numbers Game

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Most of us have a person we never want to let down. Whether it be a parent, teacher, or friend, we all have someone. Personally, I am constantly afraid of letting myself down. What once seemed like a one-time thing eventually culminated into an overarching distress, and became something that continues to take an internal jab at me most days. The ironic part is, even though this has been a personal weakness for a while, it truly became prominent during the start of college applications this fall.

The grueling process is all I think about most days, largely because of the uncertainty that comes with it. When a university becomes of interest to me, the first thing I do is look up the average SAT scores of said college, followed by its average GPA. If the numbers I see exceed my test scores or GPA, my confidence plummets within seconds. When my college counselor told me I needed to add “reach schools” to the list of colleges I was considering, I automatically thought about how I would feel, and specifically how disappointed I would be with myself if I was denied admission from those schools.

This toxic mindset has held me back from pursuing a surplus of selective opportunities. I can’t even count the number of college applications I filled out yet never submitted due to my paralyzing fear of receiving a letter that would ultimately make me feel as if I was not good enough. At a certain point I realized this: it isn’t my test scores or GPA holding me back from submitting these applications. It is solely me. I will never know unless I try at the very least.

I recently took time to reflect on the roots of this hindering weakness. How did it start? I came to the conclusion that playing a competitive sport for five years is what sparked the fire. Up until I was 15, softball was all I seemed to know. It was what I lived. It was what I breathed. And more importantly, it was what I loved most in this world. The mindset I possessed was, “even if I lose everything, I will always have softball.” I thought it would remain a constant in my life for the foreseeable future. What I loved about it was the feeling of gratification after making a play that ultimately contributed to my team winning the game. On the contrary, when I made an error, it felt to me as if the world was ending. Regardless of the outcome of the game, I would think about that error for days after its occurrence. I eventually quit for the sake of my sanity.

The reason I hated making errors in softball was predominantly because it would bring down my statistics for that season. I compulsively checked our team website to analyze the changes in my numbers. Up until recently, I had an application on my phone that graciously notified me every time a teacher entered a grade. I often enter my GPA and standardized test scores into a computer generated program that predicts my chance of getting into a college.

While numbers can help us be realistic, they don’t define us. I thought about it like this: I don’t judge people based on how much they weigh, how much money they make, or how old they were when they got their first job. So why should I judge myself on these quantitative aspects? Life, as much as we want it to be, is not purely a numbers game.

Roya Register, 17,  attends North Atlanta and is an IB diploma candidate.

Above illustration by Roya Register/VOX staff

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