<< Picturing myself at college

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• Be realistic. Don’t apply only to hard-to-get-into schools, even though applying to a couple won’t hurt you. Apply to colleges where you think you will have a good chance of getting accepted. I learned that the hard way because I applied to a lot of competitive Catholic and Jesuit colleges, like Villanova University, where you need a 3.9 or 4.0, even though I had a 3.2. I thought I could get accepted because I attended a Jesuit high school. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was denied or placed on a waitlist for 13 colleges. I got accepted to one college, the University of Colorado at Boulder. Luckily, I love the school and it was my first choice.
lllllApply to colleges that are within your reach so you have more than one to choose from once you are admitted. You can figure out what schools are within your reach by researching the school’s admission requirements such as average GPA and SAT/ACT scores on their websites. If you have a 3.0 and the average GPA of students they accepted is 3.2, give it a shot. But if the average is 3.9 or 4.0 then you will most likely not get in. When you apply to mainly hard-to-reach schools, you are wasting time and money.
lllllWhen I was a junior my counselor explained to me that I should apply to three schools that I could easily get into, three schools that were within my range and three “long shot” schools. I didn’t take her advice because my parents wanted me to go the Jesuit route. I’m disappointed I didn’t take her advice. I most likely could have gotten into more colleges.

• A lot of kids are worried about their essays because they think they have to be perfect. You can have an outstanding essay if you write about your experiences. When you are answering the personal statements and essays in the college applications, discuss your past experiences as a way to answer the questions. They are easier to write because it’s your life and you don’t have to do any research.
lllllSome colleges asked me questions about how I would be able to positively impact the campus community. I responded by saying how I volunteered for community service throughout high school. I told the colleges how I developed compassion for the homeless by serving them food and giving them clothes. Reflect on the experience you had and how it made you a better person, and then how you can benefit the school because of that experience.
Brett Hicks, 19, UC Boulder, Loyola HS graduate

• Apply to a reasonable number of schools. I applied to 13 schools, nine of which had separate applications, and it got really stressful. I had to sacrifice time with my family and friends to work on my applications, and when I did go out, my mind was usually elsewhere—on my personal statement and resume, to be exact. So, unless you can manage your time exceptionally well (which we all know is hard during senior year), I’d say apply to no more than seven. I know that we think that the more schools we apply to, the more options we’ll have. But, if you do your research beforehand, you’ll have a better idea of which schools you can actually see yourself attending. If I had taken the time to really research UC San Diego or USC, I would’ve realized that I truly couldn’t see myself there, and that would have saved me a lot of valuable time and effort.

• Be confident! If you approach the college application process without confidence, that will be reflected in your essay and your overall application. I know it’s easy to get down on yourself. I felt sad and inferior a lot throughout the application process. But I found that if I began to list my achievements to myself, I felt like a more deserving candidate. As hard as it may seem, you need to stay positive and believe in yourself. Remind yourself of all the amazing things you did throughout high school, and tell yourself that the colleges you’re applying to would be lucky to have you!
Serli Polatoglu, 17, UCLA, AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School graduate

• Stay organized. I stressed about whether I would have enough time to get everything done. Using Google Tasks, an online to-do list, and Google Calendar helped me. I set deadlines for everything, like when to finish essay drafts, ask teachers for letters of recommendation and do SAT prep. The Calendar alerts reminded me when deadlines were coming up and helped me plan ahead. I tend to misplace planners, so having this information online was helpful. I wish I had started using the online calendar and to-do list earlier because using a timeline with deadlines throughout the entire college app process would have lowered my stress level.
Charlene Lee, 17, Wellesley College, Walnut HS graduate