The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School




The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School



Incoming Senior? Here’s What You Need to Know about College Apps


For San Luis Obispo High School seniors starting up school in a few weeks, one assignment looms larger than the rest: college applications. Complicated, lengthy, and stressful, college apps are difficult to manage and intimidating to think about. But if a college education is what you’re planning to pursue after high school, there’s no way to get around the admissions process. Having gone through the ordeal just under a year ago myself, I’ve gained some perspective on the process and learned from my own mistakes and successes. To help you all out with your admissions process this fall, here’s five tips.

  1. Start right now. 

Yes, now. Look at the UC and Common App essay prompts and start thinking about what you might write. You don’t need to start a draft or even settle on an idea, just read through the prompts to start the planning process. Figure out what teachers you’ll be requesting letters of recommendation from and be prepared to ask them early; the sooner the better. If you’re feeling really proactive, make a list of all the awards, extracurriculars, and any other events you’ve done in high school. Having that written out will make filling out the activities sections of applications go much faster. 

2. Make sure you’re applying to the right schools. 

  “Don’t apply to a school you’re not willing to go to,” said Career Center Advisor Colleen Martin. Be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for in a college, whether it’s location, size, academic offerings, or cost of attendance. Go beyond the rankings or prestige of a school and take the time to really understand what the campus culture is like. The right school to apply to isn’t the highest ranking one or the most selective, it’s the one that fits you the best. 

3. Take the time to develop your essay. 

If you’re applying to the UCs or most any private school, you’ll have to write multiple essays for your application. Take the time to cultivate them. Spend time selecting the right topic or experience to write about and spend even more time drafting, revising and editing. Your essay is the one opportunity in your to bring in your personality and to purposefully frame the rest of your application. Take the time to do it well.  

  “[a big mistake students’ make] in any essay is that they’re too vague, they’re not specific enough. If you did something that impacted your life and you’re writing about it, get down in the weeds of specificness,” said Martin. 

  Colleges are looking for two things in your application: whether you’ll be academically successful at their school and what you will contribute to the college’s community. Your grades and test scores will help show the former, but it’s your essay that’s the key to the latter.

  “[students tend to] overemphasize grades and test scores and underemphasize having a passion about anything. Students need to spend more time cultivating who they are and less time worrying about straight A’s,” said Martin. Use your essay to express your passion and personality and to give context to your grades and extracurriculars. 

4. Don’t procrastinate. 

I know everyone’s already told you this and me saying it likely won’t stop you from doing it anyway, but don’t. You will feel significantly more relaxed and comfortable if you pace yourself through the process. Organize the due dates for your various applications and remember that financial aid and interview deadlines aren’t always the same as the application due date. Hold yourself accountable to deadlines for essay drafts and finishing application parts. 

5. Remember that your admission status isn’t a reflection of your self worth. 

This is probably the hardest advice to follow, but arguably the most important. While there are steps you can take to craft your best application, the admissions process is mysterious, confusing, and often seemingly random. You may be rejected from a school you thought was a safety or be accepted into one that seemed out of reach. It’s impossible to know what will make an admissions committee ultimately choose to accept or deny you. So remember that their decision isn’t a determinant of your potential or worth.

  The next few months may feel overwhelming, but they will ultimately come to an end. Keep your head up and good luck on all your applications!

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