By: Ella Rook
The college craze is mostly over for seniors. Students have received all of their decision letters, tears were shed and successes were celebrated. Now that National College Decision Day on May 1st has passed, seniors have committed to future plans. Where did we succeed and where could we have improved? More importantly, what can the juniors learn from our experience?
1) Start Essays Soon
Collectively, most seniors shared the same advice: start early. As high school students, many of us are very comfortable with procrastinating until the last possible minute to submit work. It can be tempting to fall into this same trap when applying to colleges. The most time-consuming part of your college applications is usually the required essays, the most important essay being your “Common App” essay (if you are applying to a school that uses The Common Application). Some seniors, like Jonathan Ferreira, started writing his Common App essay two weeks before it was due and found that it was “a stressful two weeks.” He instead wishes that he had started drafting his essay over summer, as soon as the essay prompts came out. Considering this is such an important essay, and one of the only ways some colleges can get a sense of your personality, Ferreira recommends choosing a topic for the essay that “actually matters to you” and to “write for yourself, not the college.” Just know that not every idea you come up with for your essay will work. Some students drafted an essay and then rewrote it when they didn’t feel like the central themes or ideas represented them in the best way. d.tech college counselor Kathleen Odell suggests “utilizing your peers, Kathleen, and English teachers to get feedback on [your] essays.”
2) Figure out a college list
The other part of applications that seniors struggled with was figuring out which schools to send them to. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are over three thousand four-year colleges, as well as hundreds of community colleges and trade schools, so there is an overwhelming amount of choice. Senior Katie Toye found that forming a rough idea for your college list in junior year, then solidify a final list beginning of senior year.
There is still the question of how many colleges to apply to; most counselors recommend you apply to about eight schools, but some d.tech students applied to upwards of 20. Senior Ashley Phan is one of those students — she had to use four different application platforms to submit her applications and now she wishes that she’d applied to fewer. Conversely senior Fiona Cheung applied to 15 schools and believes it was the best choice for her. Similarly to Cheung, senior Sebastian Golden applied to 21 colleges because he was unsure of where he wanted to go. No matter how many schools you decide to apply to, the most important thing is to diversify your college portfolio. Apply to some schools that you are confident you will get into, some target schools where your statistics, like GPA and tests scores, match the college’s acceptance profile, and some reach schools that have a 20 percent or lower acceptance rate or that accept students with higher scores than you. Most importantly, make sure you would be excited to go to any school you applied to.
3) Check things twice
When filling out college applications and financial aid applications like the FAFSA and CSS, it is critical that you double-check the information you input. The forms can ask for a lot of highly specific information from tax returns as well as estimates of your yearly budget for things like groceries. Senior Alan Gjerstad cautions other seniors to “be careful” and to “pay attention to what you’re doing” when filling out these forms.
4) What to do now
Kathleen recommends that all juniors “begin considering their beyond-d.tech options now.” Additionally, even if you unsure of your future plans she encourages “all juniors to take an SAT or ACT in the spring of junior year.” If you are considering a four-year college, Kathleen advises students to visit colleges “as much as possible.” Even if you don’t want to apply to the college you are visiting, it can still help you figure out what you do and don’t like in a campus or college experience. For instance, last year, the senior class took a field trip to Santa Clara University, through this trip Golden learned that while a small suburban college may be right for some, he wanted a “larger urban setting” and has thus committed to New York University. Finally, reach out to Kathleen early and often, and look out for UC, Common Application, and Coalition Application workshops in May.
From one graduating class to the next, we wish you luck juniors!