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Filed under Planning Ahead

College App Frenzy: Where do you start?

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Planning for the future.

Planning for the future.

Clarisse Guevarra

Clarisse Guevarra

Planning for the future.

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Around this time of year, high school seniors nationwide are throwing themselves in the cyclone of the college application process. While counselors go around prepping their juniors for the same process, one question is constantly thrown around: “Where do I even start?”

Many who have already gone through the stresses of applying admit that, initially, they did not know where to begin. Terms like “personal essays” and “brag sheets” are thrown around without solid definitions, and most students are left confused. Most had to figure out the process on their own. Now, in the high tide of application season, a handful of seniors and undergraduate students have come together to offer advice they never got.

One problem that many students encounter is figuring out which colleges to apply to in the first place. With hundreds to choose from just in their home state, it is quite a daunting question to consider.

“I found something that I found myself great at and looked for that particular thing in colleges,” said Jesse Craig, senior. “Then I categorized them into my priorities and ranked them from there.”

For Ashley Alegria, senior, every major can be found in an abundance of great schools. “When I was deciding how to narrow down my choices, I thought about what I wanted to get out of my college experience. I had the tendency to choose colleges with really small campuses and population, because personally, I didn’t want an overwhelming experience,” she said. “I think people sometimes forget to look into those factors when they’re looking into the highest-ranking schools. People may think physical aspects aren’t important, but I beg to differ, because you’re going to spend the next four years there.”

Like many students, Miya Busch, senior, saw career path as an important factor. “I looked at the majors [colleges] had first, and then the price of tuition,” she said. “It’s important to have an idea of what you are interested in career-wise, because then you can try and go into a major that you might like.”

With an excess of majors and programs to consider, another problem surfaces: what if you do not know what you want to do yet? Fortunately, for many, a major does not have to be declared for a while, especially since the first two years of college are mostly comprised of core classes. Some students even change their major several times before settling on one they truly want. According to Miya, “It might be best to go to a reasonably priced school to figure out what you want to do [first], because then you can always transfer.”

Among typical application procedures is the letter of recommendation, and along with this comes the brag sheet. A common misconception is that the brag sheet is sent to the college itself. However, it is merely one of the many starting points of an application.

A brag sheet outlines achievements, awards, skills, important experiences, and is comparable to a personal resume. This is what students send to teachers writing their letters of recommendation, which can then be used to inspire ideas for the letter itself.

Megan Madolora, class of 2017, listed her own set of primary tools. “Schedule what letters need to be done at first hand, request the people you want, give the appropriate amount of time to the writer, and [have] basic communication,” she said. To her, students should not be afraid to give a list of things they want the writer to know about them. “You are showing these people you are working your hardest and to your best ability,” she said.

To Miya, students should make sure to plan accordingly by asking early: “Remember that the person is doing you a favor, and it’s on their own time. Also, don’t forget to thank them!” In fact, students should give a teacher at least three weeks notice.

Planning accordingly is a critical part of the application process, especially when it comes to the personal essays. Year after year, students panic to finish them after weeks of procrastinating. It is important to remember that some might apply for several different colleges, many of which do not have the same type of application. If personal essays are required, each application most likely has a different set of questions.

“I lacked writing. I lack in sharing what I really think of a situation or an event [and] getting my assignments done. I was lazy, and I procrastinated. Writing can be a challenge. However, writing an essay involves truth, humility,” said Megan. “You make the paper your own, and you talk about all the points that you believe are valid to the readers’ growth. Essentially, spit it out.”

Personal essays are exactly what the name implies. Many of the questions make students really explore themselves. According to Miya, “Essays are the strongest when your writing demonstrates passion. You want to really think about what makes you unique as an applicant. It’s important to brainstorm before you write and really think about the questions. Also, it’s always helpful to have another person read your essay and give you advice, because there’s always room for improvement!”

Jesse agrees. “You just need to write what is in your heart. It’s sappy, but often the truth from your heart is way better than basic garbage,” he said.

As always, it is important to remember deadlines. Different colleges have different dates set, and certain departments and programs have seperate deadlines for supplemental actions.

One might ask, what are supplements? These are the additional requirements set by specific departments, usually those involved with the arts. Acting and theatre programs usually require prescreens or auditions, and others, like animation and film, might ask for creative pieces and a portfolio.

“Counselors aren’t good at telling you this, or at least not in my experience,” said one student. “If you already know what you want to do and you know you’re applying to a certain department, you better go on that school’s website and search through and through to make sure that you’re not missing anything. People focus so much on STEM majors. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to major in any of those, but if you don’t, then you might need to take the reins for yourself.”

As a last bit of advice, most recommended the same list of beneficial actions: visit the campuses, apply for an interview with those colleges and overall, do not procrastinate. Hopefully, future applicants will not start the initial process in a pit of confusion.

 

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