Article by Kamille Jude
Ah, college – that far off place many of us are working towards after we leave high school. Beginning with junior year, the outside world beyond high school becomes a reality as students start preparing for their ACTs, SATs, and SAT IIs. Then there’s the Common Application, the UCAS application, the UC Application, essays, supplements, and personal statements––the list goes on. The cumulative experiences of one’s high school life has given students the platform to succeed in the completion of their numerous applications. It is to be expected that at this point of the year, juniors are starting to feel the pressure to start thinking about college whilst managing their courseload, studying for standardized tests and writing college essays. So, to help them through this tough time, ISM’s dearest seniors have some advice to impart.
What was the hardest part of the application process?
Sofie J.: I found making time for the application process one of the most difficult things, as well as the tedious task of going over and editing the same work multiple times.
Sarah P.: Honestly, I think the hardest part is picking the right range of schools. You can’t just pick all reaches and you’re encouraged to branch out if you’ve chosen mostly safeties. There’s a lot of things to consider with colleges, it’s a big commitment to spend your time and energy into writing those supplements, and you spend money to send those scores and supplements. I guess I found it pretty scary thinking that I’m choosing a place I want to stay in for the next four years – it’s quite an investment.
Hong Minh B.: The hardest part is probably writing the Personal Statement because I had to spend quite a long time [thinking] of ways to make my application stand out among thousands of others. I think that captivating the admissions officer with a strong hook in the introduction and ending strong in the conclusion is crucial.
What advice do you have about standardized testing?
Sofie J.: Do as well as you can, but don’t kill yourself over it. Standardized testing is only one of the many aspects of the college application that you need to consider. Numbers cannot define you!
Sarah P.: Oh my, learn from my mistakes! Nobody will emphasize it enough but it makes a world of a difference if you don’t have to deal with standardized testing in senior year. You actually get to sleep and have a social life! Although I wouldn’t know that personally.
Hong Minh B.: Just breathe and be hopeful that good things will come! Remember not to procrastinate prior to the exam. Be confident in yourself, don’t put yourself down by comparing your strengths to those of other people.
How did you chose the schools you applied to?
Sofie J.: I was lucky enough to attend a college tour during the summer of my junior year, but what actually helped me a lot on that tour was a small grid that we were told to make at the start of our trip. On the top of the grid we were told to write various aspects of what I wanted to see in a school in order of importance. For instance, I put course flexibility and teacher to student ratio higher than food options. Then, we would rank schools on each criteria out of 10.
Sarah P.: There are a lot of factors to consider! Of course, you have to know how whether you’ll prosper in that sort of academic environment (whether people are rather competitive or friendly). There’s also the location and what’s available outside of the university. Then there’s the community and the extracurriculars you might want to get involved in. Also, it helps a lot to know what you might want to major in or if you prefer liberal arts schools. Those are the main things I looked at.
Hong Minh B.: My top universities are based in London. I chose London because I love the prospect of living in large cities. Another reason I chose universities in London is because I get to interact with people from various backgrounds – a great way to make new friends and acquire knowledge every day. It is a cultural hearth! As for other universities I have chosen, they are of close proximity to London which is very attractive. I did not choose any universities in Northern London because I fear the cold, haha!
Do you have any other advice for those currently going through the application process or are about to start it?
Sofie J.: It’s easy to slack off and leave applying to the last minute but honestly, I really recommend starting early. Treating applying to college like sport where you dedicate at least two hours a week researching or writing essays will pay off in the end. I also think that there is always a mentality where you have to go to a “good school”, but truly, a good school is one where you can be the best version of yourself. Lastly, in this very chaotic process, one of the things that kept me going is the phrase “love the school that loves you” because although your eyes are set on somewhere, it is really their loss if they don’t feel the same.
Sarah P.: If you’re struggling to start an essay or supplement, just write, write, write! Hopefully, you’ll be able to use some of the things you write and if you’re completely off topic, then it might fit another supplement!
Hong Minh B.: Be positive, remember all admission tutors are just human. Put yourself in their shoes. Most importantly, work hard, but also play hard. Go outside, observe, and interact more with people and your surroundings. That way, you can get authentic experiences to write for your personal statement!
The expectations regarding the application process may seem daunting, but at the end of the day, trying your best and finding your place is what really matters. Hopefully this was useful to those of you embarking on the last leg of your high school journey. Best of luck!
Love, Your Seniors (Class of 2017)