Rising Seniors Slug Through the College App Process

Upcoming Seniors Jansen Humphrey and Emily Camire point on the map to their dream college location

Upcoming Seniors Jansen Humphrey and Emily Camire point on the map to their dream college location

Summer is a time that teachers, students, and parents anxiously wait for; the relaxation kicks in, and all the built up stress from the school year disappears. However, the upcoming senior class is not so fortunate this summer. Amidst their much deserved unwinding during the summer holiday, they are also faced with the task of starting their college applications.

At ODA, the college counseling process is started at a young age, when students are entering their freshman year. They sit down with their designated counselor for their first meeting which can be both nerve-wracking and confusing. I can say from experience that as an underclassman, applying to college seems far away. Many have no idea what to look for, what they want, or what to study. The things that are important to students when looking at colleges varies widely. You might be interested in the specific majors colleges offer, or a college that has an amazing study abroad program, or even where you think you might want to live once you graduate. For an easy way to research colleges, check out http://www.collegeboard.org/ for basic facts about schools, and what each school requires when applying.

Though the college counseling process begins during the early years of high school, it drastically changes once junior year begins. For underclassmen, it is just about learning the general information: what colleges look for, how to take SATs and ACTs, what kind of GPA you need to get into the schools of your choice, and other things along those lines. However, once junior year starts, the college application process becomes a lot more intense.

Throughout the year, the juniors have a series of college counseling workshops that each focus on a separate part of the application. The first workshop features the “Brag Sheet,” an Excel spreadsheet that each student makes to showcase extra curricular activities. There is a section for each year in high school. Under each year, there is a place for the activity the student did, how many hours of time per week it took up, and honorable mentions received in that activity. Being a part of a sports team, club, theater, music or any unique activity is important to college, and the “Brag Sheet” is the place for students to show how they have excelled outside of the classroom.

Another workshop during the year is about the essay question that is a requirement of admissions for all colleges. Each year, the essay topics are released, and the students pick the one they choose to write about. An example of one from this previous year is describing a place the students feels most content. The essay is a way not only for colleges to sample a student’s writing, but also for admissions officers to understand more of what is important to each applicant and to get to know each student on a different level. The rising seniors have all sent in their first drafts of their essays to their college counselor, who will edit it and help the student make it the best it can be.

The third workshop covers the details of the Common Application, which is the standard college application released every year to all applicants applying to college. Some prestigious universities, such as the ivy leagues, will require a separate application just for their university, but most accept the Common Application.

The Common Application handles all of the student’s personal and contact information, and other requirements such as listings of all courses a student has taken through high school and a short 150-word essay. Although the 2013-2014 school year Common Application will not be released until July, the college counselors at ODA want ODA students to get as much practice and preparation in as we can.

Applying to college is probably the most stressful time in a student’s high school career. However, students at ODA know how important it is to be prepared ahead of time so they do not get overwhelmed.

Upcoming junior Emma Holland says, “I feel like this process has shifted my mindset to one of preparation. There’s a lot to be done, but I know that my first semester of senior year will be easier with most my college applications completed in the summer.”

Now that the rising seniors know how to apply to college, summer is the time to start putting it all together. The extra work this past school year (like writing the essay and forming our brag sheet) seemed stressful at the time, but the process will be more smooth with these things out of the way.  Even though the college application process might be hindering some summer relaxation for the upcoming seniors, getting work done now is important for our last year at ODA and for our future college careers.