Following the Stepping Stones into College

It’s that time of year again- high school seniors staying up late with baggy eyes cramming in their college essays, sending in applications, and waiting in eager anticipation for the results that will determine a colossal chunk of their future. It’s time to see how much the study sessions and the exhausting all-nighters spent during their high school career have paid off.  This marks a significant pedestal in their life-a milestone that gives them a chance to burst out of the bubble of childhood and set off to become their own independent person.

Although this process is exciting, it is also a grueling and challenging procedure that must be planned out efficiently. There are countless factors to be considered when applying for college-factors like admission rates, school size, course availability, location, and cost. Each must be taken into accountability when signing up for potential schools.

Unfortunately, the college application process isn’t as simple as scribbling a name on a piece of paper. A long list of to-do’s are obligatory when letting colleges know you are interested in joining their team. Most colleges will require a copy of your high school transcript, an application fee ranging anywhere from $20-$75, college admissions tests, a personal essay, and letters of recommendation stating what you’ve accomplished, what kind of potential you have, and why the person writing the letter believes you should be admitted to that college.

Most people claim the essay is the hardest part in the application process, but it is also a chief element that just may determine the difference between an admission and a rejection. Michael Park, a senior in Centennial High School and currently applying to seven colleges agrees with this statement-“The essay is the only part where you can show who you are and what makes you different from every other applicant, not to mention that it has to be perfect-grammar-wise and content-wise. You really need to tell what’s unique about yourself…you need to put a lot of time into it.”

Park also adds-“Try to get a lot of extracurriculars but don’t be fake about it. Just do the things that you like-things that are related to what you could be doing in the future.”

Vivian Bui, a graduating senior planning to go into health care, gives some healthy advice to applying beginners-“I would tell the underclasses to research the colleges or majors they are interested in. If someone wants to be a doctor and wants to go to Washington University, they should see what the steps it takes to become a physician and what WashU looks for in a student.”

If you’re looking for a good mentor, you don’t have to resort to Google for your questions. “Mrs. Johnson, and Ms. Beata were huge helps during the application process. Any question I had, they were there to answer,” Vivian relays.  Laura Beata is the director of the College and Career Center here at Centennial High School and definitely one to consult on questions and helpful tips.  P.J.  Johnson is the counselor assigned to seniors.

According to Beata, it is never too early to start thinking about colleges, but juniors and seniors are at the prime time to activate the challenging process. “I would say planning and doing your research is very important. So if you’re a junior and thinking about colleges, you want to start narrowing down your list and start thinking about what you’re looking for in a college and then look for colleges that meet those needs. As a senior, I would say organization is probably your biggest thing…It’s key to stay organized.” For seniors looking for helpful organization tools, Beata recommends Excel spreadsheets and websites like CareerCruising that offer specific tools to plan and consolidate ideas. She also notes to be realistic when applying for colleges-“You always want that one safe school in there.” In other words, don’t sign up for ten Ivy League schools without having a backup in mind.

Shout out to all the fellow underclassmen yet to go through this process. It’s rumored to be a bumpy ride but stressing out about it won’t accomplish anything. Get a head start and begin requesting recommendation letters, crack those dusty ACT books, check out helpful tools like careercruising, and mind that GPA.  However, don’t be afraid to splurge every once in a while and give yourself a time out. Too much of anything is a bad thing, but a lazy day or two can be constructive for health and stress levels.  Despite the cliché, high school is short-lived; those four years can only be lived once. Don’t spend them fretting over everything and pulling chunks of hair out, but don’t throw away precious time constantly lounging around in a Snuggie watching marathons of CSI. Balance is key, and the organization skills you develop in high school will be crucial to surviving the independent road that leads to the next adventure awaiting in the realm of college.