Their parents took the ACT test, applied to a couple of colleges, picked one and went there. But the college admissions process has dramatically changed for today's high schoolers.
Today more high school graduates are competing for seats in the freshman class and top colleges are sending out a record number of rejections. That puts pressure on kids to stand out to get into the school of their choice. And extra-curricular activities may be just the thing that sets them apart on that college application.
"I've been told it's not the GPA and even though I have a 3.9 GPA, it'd be nice to have the other extra-curriculars to push you in that direction and they can tell she's well rounded. She's in band, she's in choir, she's in debate and she’s in DECA. She's the president of many of these different organizations,” senior Meredith Gould said.
Meredith also won the title of Miss Teen South Dakota. She has no doubt that her leadership roles helped her get into the school of her choice. Gould will be attending the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota in the fall.
"She has a definite game plan and she has for a long time," Mother Libby Gould said.
"It used to be we just looked at academics. School wanted those smart kids. They wanted to get them on campus. But now colleges want that well-rounded student. They want a student who is going to bring something to their campus, whether it's in student body, activities, leadership roles; but they're going to be more than just a student going to class," Lincoln High School Guidance Counselor Jackie Geppert-Anderson said.
"As early as seventh grade, I was prompted by my teachers to think about what you want to do with your life. Later on with the help of my counselors I started to make my college selection even leaner the summer of freshman year," sophomore Zachary Schmitz said.
Zachary has his heart set on Princeton and he's doing all he can to beef up his college resume to get into the Ivy League School.
"I'm involved in jazz band, marching band, DECA, SALSA, Spanish club and I'm involved in concert band," Schmitz said.
Zachary even organized a special holiday luminary project to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network. It's self-started projects like this one that can really set a student apart in the competition to get into the school of their choice.
"He needed to shine in his own right with his leadership skills. He took this on, he embraced it and not only is it great for him, but it's great for our community," Geppert-Anderson said.
But are all these extra-curriculars combined with the pressure to get straight As causing too much anxiety among today's students? Will they be burned out by the age of 30?
"In this particular case, he's just very driven and very focused and at some point you need to say, this is your life and we're going to be here. It's kind of like holding on to a rocket at times and making sure it doesn't hit the wall,” Father Phil Schmitz said.
"It's really hard to be that voice when they're comparing scores with other students and you're in three extra curricular activities and they're in eight. And you've got that competition that you don't even know that's in the room, but it is part of life today," Father Jeff Gould said.
"It's okay, we live in a competitive society and it's a world economy now. It's not just South Dakota. It's not just the United States. They're competing with people all over the world for their careers in the future," Zachary said.
Schmitz wants to be a petroleum engineer someday.
"This might be extreme; but I hope to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company," Meredith said.
Not so extreme, when you realize all the hard work and determination she's already exhibited. But whether it's parents, society or a combination of factors, these kids do still need to be kids.
"In our opinion they've got it a lot tougher. We may have thought we had it tough, but they've got more pressure. They've got more pressure," Schmitz said.
"I think the biggest thing with the kids is that parents are in tune with the amount of homework time they're giving, the amount of work they're doing and just that they have a social life. That's the biggest thing I try to get kids to see; enjoy life," Geppert-Anderson said.
Some of the competition to get into highly selective schools will shrink for upcoming classes. By 2015 the number of high-school graduates will begin to drop, meaning a little less pressure will be on those top performing students to get into the school of their choice.