Under Pressure

The Harrowing Journey from ARS to Undergrad

Under+Pressure

Grace Slagle, Editor-In-Chief

Attend and graduate from college. One glance; it’s a simple collection of vowels and consonants strung together; a small fraction of our mission statement. Seven years go by, and it transforms into an insurmountable task akin to becoming a self-made billionaire. College. You know, that looming word dangled over our heads since we were too young to understand its significance. It’s here now. 

College is, chronologically at least, very insignificant. Most of us will live to see our eighties, so four to six years thrown somewhere in there really don’t amount to much. But the price tag will say otherwise. So will the homesickness, sleep loss, headaches, imposter syndrome, and of course, the fact that we’re moving on to an entirely new life. 

Ann Richards has prepared us quite well, for the most part. The stars of 2022 stand on the precipice of something great, something that looks incredibly different for every single person in our class. Lily Castillo (12) feels “unprepared but (is) pushing through.” Castillo, like many other ARS seniors, is in the thick of the college process, and will graduate in May. 

Career interest is something we’ve had the chance to explore over seven years at ARS, and it’s not always black and white. But for Castillo, the choice is clear. “I want to do constructional engineering or civil engineering… it excites me and it’s something that I’m interested in and not just looking to do just for financial purposes,” Castillo said. Fellow senior Milo Araguz is interested in the sciences. “I want to be a lab researcher in the neuroscience field… it’s kind of something I picked out of, like, ‘Oh, that sounds really cool, it sounds super interesting!’,” Araguz said. Ann Richards has taught us to not only be interested in lucrative long term careers, but to truly be passionate about our potential jobs. With the help of pathways, seniors have experienced the highs and lows of Biomedical Science, Engineering and Media Technology, and are that much closer to a major declaration, exploring a minor, or maybe just hovering slightly above “undecided” for a while. 

At ARS, there’s an interesting juxtaposition between the intense stress and impossible workload, and the comforting safety net of peers and teachers. “Since I’m the first person in my family to even be applying to college, it’s a little, high expectations… especially from my family,” Castillo said. “But from… school… It’s a common thing because everyone is doing it right now, so you have people to lean back on… people to be like, ‘Hey, did you apply to this school too?’, and you have people that are offering to help you.” Support can be found anywhere you look on the Ann Richards campus. Our campus may have moved and evolved physically, but the people are just the same. “Being at ARS has made me realize that college is something that is going to be in my future, like for sure… But college isn’t something that is necessary for everyone,” said Araguz. “There’s a lot that Ann Richards gives you… the opportunity to have people that are really looking after you… in such a tight-knit community… it can be very hard to live up to that standard [attend and graduate from college], especially if that’s not in your path of life.”

The Covid-19 pandemic shifted plans for students everywhere. Sudden circumstances that none of us could have expected have left many seniors scrambling. “After… being at home for two years, I don’t know how to make friends, and I don’t know how to… start something new,” said Araguz. College is a completely different ball game for incoming freshmen, and the environment at ARS is not like that of any standard high school we could’ve potentially attended. “I think if anything, I’m expecting that the high workload that we’ve had at our school throughout the many years that we’ve been here has kind of prepared me for the workload of college but I also feel like in terms of… the social aspects, I feel very unprepared… But I also don’t know what could have prepared me for it…” said Araguz. “…I’ll experience more of a culture shock than I will anything with the academic workload.”

There are many things one must consider before choosing a college, and the price can truly make all the difference in the world. Indeed, finance is an unfortunate reality we’re getting closer and closer to confronting; money does make the world go round, especially in higher education. “College is so expensive… and I feel like something we’re lacking is resources on how to pay for college… The system is clearly not in our favor, so finding ways to… turn that system in our favor, if at all possible, would be helpful,” Araguz said. This has become an encroaching reality for the hundred-and-twelve or so graduating ARS seniors. Education has slowly gotten more and more pricey over the years. An American four-year education, no matter where it’s from, is vastly out of reach for many students and their families. Countless factors are present: is the school private, public? Out of state or not? Will it give decent merit aid? Need based aid? Is their initial offer good? Araguz weighs the benefits: “It would be… nice to get to go to my dream school and not have to worry about the repercussions financially.” But for many students, the ultimate decision is simply going to come down to money. “I applied to a lot of out of state colleges just because I want to experience… being my own person… but in the end, I’m going to choose whichever one I’m able to afford more,” Araguz said. 

And as previously mentioned, imposter syndrome rears its ugly head all throughout applying to college, and beyond. “It’s feeling, like, not good enough, in a way, feeling like you’re not good enough for certain institutions that you’re trying to get into, or feeling not good enough for certain programs, or feeling not good enough in comparison to your peers, as well, like, hearing about their accomplishments and their awards and all of those things and then to be worried about your own, so it’s really… an anxiety-filled process,” said Araguz. “I feel like the expectation is to go out and do great things… and I feel like that puts a lot of pressure on me not only as a student but also as a person, because… all of us have our limits that we will eventually reach,” said Araguz. Being incubated in a school full of smart, capable students, for seven years, can work wonders for self esteem and help you kiss self-care goodbye. Being thrust into college with that unchecked mentality can’t be good for you. 

Ultimately, there are a million paths to attending college (or not). “If you just let yourself… see what makes you happy and where that’ll take you, it’s definitely worth pursuing your happiness over any standard or expectation that might be set for you,” said Araguz. Similarly, Castillo recognizes the trepidatious but ultimately rewarding nature of the college process. “As a senior applying for college, I still don’t know too much about what happens after you start. But I’ve always thought everybody has different paths.” 

So where does this leave us? Most ARS seniors have already applied to a four-year university, and many have been accepted and are now surviving the process of receiving financial aid award letters. Scholarship applications now weigh heavy on every twelfth-grader’s mind. And though the road may seem foggy up ahead, we know we’ll go on to do great things. Definitely lead with courage and compassion. Solve problems creatively and ethically, for sure. Changing the world might be pushing it a little, but who knows?