On the first Tuesday of the second semester, OVS juniors began their epic journey into college counseling, and boy, do they have a lot to learn.
As the second semester kicked into gear, I crested the great mountain of applying to colleges and sent my last application. Through it all, I applied to 18 schools, spent about 800 hours writing, wrote almost 10,000 of the most important words of my life, and even studied for the SAT on an island in the middle of the Zambezi river in Africa.
Although your experiences may be different, I guarantee that you will be surprised at the hours and words and experiences you go through to get to the top. It’s a liberating feeling being finished, but the process is not an easy one. Yet this is something that looms before the Junior class as they move steadily toward graduation. As someone who stands at the top of this monstrosity, I can clearly see all of the pitfalls, sheer cliffs, and paths that the 11th graders will soon have to face. But these dangers are easily avoidable, and here is how that can be done.
One of the biggest nuisances in applying to college is the emails. The constant, unending emails. Although these do not pose a threat to the journey, they make it more complicated, like thick chaparral that blocks the trail. Every day you get flooded with pitches from all kinds of colleges and universities, many of which you have no desire to apply to. The best way to deal with this is to create a new email account that is dedicated solely to colleges. Give this account to representatives at college visits or fairs, and NOT your personal or school email. By doing this, it will not only prevent your personal inbox from filling up, but it will also make the application process more organized.
That was one of the easy parts.
The hardest thing is the sheer amount of time that it can take. Just ask Caspian Ellis, a senior who has been dedicated to the application process for much longer than her peers.
“I started my applications at the beginning of summer,” she said.
A wise move, as schoolwork conflicts heavily with college work. When asked what advice she would give juniors starting their trek, she suggests that “if I were to start over, I would have started studying for my SAT the summer going into my junior year, and finish testing before entering senior year. Just having those exams completed before you start your last year is so beneficial.”
Finishing standardized testing early is a good way to save time, but even working one hour a day will defray the future workload significantly, whether that be filling out the common app, studying for SAT/ACT tests, or writing supplements. By the time school starts, you’ll be far ahead of where you need to be, plus have more time to enjoy your senior year.
One of the biggest hurdles that students in the midst of applying must face is where, exactly, they are going to apply.
Gabe Weisiger, a junior at OVS, says he still doesn’t know where he wants to go to school.
“My sister goes to Berkeley,” he said. “So that’s obviously a bar that I want to try and meet. But I’m honestly open to anything.”
Many people have one or two big schools in mind, usually of high caliber or reputation. But thinking that you will 100% be accepted to Berkeley or Harvard or UChicago, no matter what your grades are, is unrealistic. Of course, you should apply to the schools that you want to, but spend some time researching a variety of schools. On your college list, there should be some reach schools, some target schools, and some backup schools; but all should be places where you think you could be happy. One truism, and an idea shared by everyone from Harvard admission officers to high school seniors, is that getting into the top schools is really a crap shoot. No matter your GPA, background, or SAT scores, there is no guarantee that you’ll get accepted, so a solid, balanced college list is essential to your happiness and success.
Although that may seem scary, don’t worry; it’s going to be okay, no matter what. As long as you put in the work, you can go almost anywhere that you want. It may seem daunting, scary, even impossible. But follow the tips that I provided, do the assignments Mr. Alvarez gives on time, and this mountain will seem like a molehill. Oh and one more thing. Don’t forget your Common App password the day of three deadlines. I speak from experience on this.Share