College App Season: Some Tips From Graduating Seniors

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Image: commonapp.org

By the East Side News Seniors

Summer is a time of rest, relaxation, vacationing, and free time for most. Two months of freedom to fill with whatever activities you so desire–what could possibly be better? For our rising seniors in the Class of 2025, however, summer brings about the beginning of the college application season. College apps are hard! College admissions are hard. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming–here are some tips to break down the process and minimize stress for our rising seniors.

  1. 1. Start early! We cannot stress enough how important that is! Ideally, it’s good to start brainstorming preliminary lists of colleges to apply for in late June and begin brainstorming ideas for essay prompts. Use the months in the summer wisely!
  2. 2. Finalize your Common App Personal Statement during the summer. Being one of the longest, if not the longest, college essay that students have to write, make sure to get this 650-word essay down on paper before school starts. Remember, once senior year rolls around, things are going to get busy, so if students can do themselves a favor and lessen some of their stress, they should finish their personal statement by the end of summer. Trust us, rising seniors, you’ll feel a huge weight being lifted off your chest and a surge of confidence once you finish this essay!
  3. 3. Stay organized! We suggest using Excel spreadsheets or creating a table in Google Docs to keep track of college app preparation progress as well as requirements for each specific college being applied to. 
  4. 4. Do not underestimate supplemental essays! Some schools have five, seven, eight (it’s crazy, we know) supplemental essays. Tying in with staying organized, create a plan to make sure you give yourself enough time for all your supplementals to be top-notch. Don’t procrastinate!
  5. 5. Your writing is likely to improve the more you write. As such, depending on how you approach your applications, you may want to give yourself some time to edit and polish your previous work as your writing improves. You might want to save the schools you really, really want to go to for later during the application cycle so your writing is at its best for those essays!
  6. 6. Apply to colleges you genuinely care about. If you don’t really care, admissions officers can tell. 
  7. 7. Research, research, research! Don’t rely on basic details about your school for the supplemental essays. Why are you good for this school, but also why is this school good for you? For example, does it have a specific program or club you’re interested in?
  8. 8. It’s okay to reuse stories or parts of supplementals for other schools’ essays! However, make sure you are not simply copying the same essays; admissions officers can tell if you do not sound genuinely interested, or if you are not correctly answering the prompt. If you want to use the same anecdotes for different prompts, be sure to adapt them accordingly to the prompt!
  9. 9. It’s best if your supposed subject of interest in your desired major or possibly in your personal statement is present elsewhere in your application. For example, if you’re majoring in Biology, it’s good if you have things like science fairs, research papers, and/or Science Olympiad listed in your extracurriculars, especially if they are within your top 5 activities listed. Likewise, if you make your personal statement all about how inspiring biology is to you or how an event changed your life and sparked your interest in science, then it would make sense for you to have something science-related listed as your intended major. Admissions officers want to see coherency in your application. They want to see someone who is really strong and passionate in their field of interest. Admissions officers for more competitive schools don’t want well-rounded applicants–they want a well-rounded class, in which each individual is very strong in their own field. They want a strong pool of prospective Bio students, and English students, and Engineering students, and so on and so forth. Put your best foot forward and be honest with yourself in what you want to do, and emphasize your strengths in that prospective major field elsewhere in your application.
  10. 10. Please do not apply for more schools than you have to. If you apply to too many schools, you’ll likely end up with a large number of weak applications, because you can’t properly devote a substantial amount of time to each application when you have 20 to write supplementals for. Keep in mind that each school has up to eight supplementals–it adds up to a whole lot of work! It’s much more worth it to filter out the ones you wouldn’t really go to even if you were accepted to avoid wasting time.
  11. 11. In regards to Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED)–if you have an absolute favorite school, then yes, definitely ED or EA. It’s worth it. In terms of defining these terms: there are three types of early application: binding EA, non-binding EA, and ED. Binding EA means that you apply on an earlier deadline, get your application results back sooner, and if you are accepted, you must go. Depending on your specific schools’ policies, you may be able to apply to multiple binding EA’s, but it varies from school to school, so be careful. Some schools state that if you apply binding EA to them, you cannot apply to any other schools EA or ED in any way. Non-binding EA means that you apply on an earlier deadline, get your application results back sooner, and if you get in, you are not required to go. You can apply to multiple non-binding EA’s. Finally, for ED’s, you apply on an earlier deadline, get your application results back sooner, and if you are accepted, you must go. If you apply to one school ED, then you cannot apply to any other schools EA or ED in any way, no exceptions.
  12. 12. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get into the college you want! There are a lot of factors involved in the college admissions process, so whether or not you get in may not have anything to do with your worth as a student and applicant. Keep up a positive attitude!