Students, counselors explain the college application process
March is the time for college-bound juniors to schedule testing. Here is a look at why every choice matters as teens get ready for higher level education.
[tabgroup][tab title=”Seniors’ Take”] [heading style=”1″]Seniors reflect on road to the college application[/heading] Decisions, decisions.
Everyone is forced to make them every waking second of the day. Faced with an infinite number of choices most decisions come easily. Like what to wear for the day and what to eat, but for some high school students a major decision is picking a college. With the average cost of tuition at an in-state college being more than $8,000, choosing a school that fits is crucial. For college-bound seniors, the decision process starts early.
“I started planning for college in third grade, just kidding, last year,” senior Sydney Strong said.
Senior Vikram Arun said he first began to look seriously at colleges second semester of his junior year. Starting early provides for a lot of time to work on the many things needed for applications, especially essays. Arun said the most important part of applying to colleges is writing essays “because it’s the only way colleges can glimpse who you are.”
Writing essays for colleges sounds harder than it is. Arun said it was more like “recycle essays and change a couple sentences to match the prompt.” This means having to write just one essay and then tweaking it will work for the most part. In addition, most colleges, speeding up the process, require the common application at commonapp.org, meaning essentially one application covers all colleges. Senior Ryan Davis said,“It took me at least a few days to fill out each app.”
Most select a few schools they are interested in and then start narrowing down their list of prospective schools.
“I only applied to four. I started out with like maybe seven or eight that i wanted to apply to but I slowly weeded a lot of them out and so I ended up applying to like Mizzou, Truman, Grinnell, and Wash U,” senior Aniqa Rahman said.
Early action is another choice. Usually sent to one’s first choice, early action allows for a sneak peek into the admissions process and may result in a higher chance of getting into a college, and can also reduce the cost of going to college. If accepted, then no more work. If not, the application defers to the regular pool. Arun says being deferred is “disappointing at first, but then there are other colleges.”
Senior Rachel Muzzy asked her family members narrow down the long list of potenial colleges, “Early junior year I started thinking about it and talking to my brothers about where they had gone and visited, from there I just started doing visits and stuff.”
Most seniors start writing their college application essays the fall of their senior year but a few start earlier.
“I was planning my college essays over the summer so I started doing that and once I had them written it took awhile to get a solid essay down that I wanted,” Rahman said.
Before or after application comes one of the most important parts in deciding what school to chose is the college visit. Some take them early on family vacations or road trips while others take them as a weekend excursion focused solely on the task at hand. The visit is a wonderful chance for applicants to see what a college really is all about.
“I visited Wash U, obviously I know what Mizzou is like I’ve visited it a couple of times. I haven’t visited Truman. but we did go on a Grinnell visit a couple months ago,” Rahman said.
For many, going on a visit sets colleges apart.
“In a pamphlet a lot of colleges look the same but actually going to a campus and getting a feel for the environment and a feel for the professors and the other and stuff it really gives you a better idea.” Rahman said.
After the visit the final decision comes, many outside factors weigh in on the decision, finances, parents, distance from home, national college rankings and opinions from others. All these factors weigh into the final decision.
Deciding what area of study before going to college is also important. Many factors tie in to the decision, one of which is what you plan to be in the future. Arun said he plans to go into “biomedical engineering because it’s the most popular major for med school applicants, which I want to do.” On the other hand, Davis plans on taking a different path. “I am planning on majoring in psychology.” Davis said, though unsure about the future.
“I think a lot of it was my visit. and hearing from relatives actually who attended Grinnell about the student body and about how you know the environment is really supportive and kind of quirky and at the same time I knew the education I would be receiving there would be very rigorous. so I knew I wanted to challenge myself but I also wanted to be in an environment where I would fit in and feel comfortable at home,” Rahman said.
Environment seems to be one of the biggest factors in choosing a school, “For me, I kinda wanted a new environment and so Arkansas was appealing because it’s kind of an outdoorsy area and the campus is really nice and I like the atmosphere.” Muzzy said. Even when the decision is final–Rahman choose Grinnell–questions call still linger. A common worry is homesickness. “Probably the biggest one is just leaving my friends and family behind. and I’ve lived away from home for like a couple months at a time but I’ve never really left home in the sense that I’ve left family,” Rahman said.
“Cost is probably the deciding factor with scholarships and stuff,” Arun said. Cost dictates how much can be spent on a college, limiting which colleges to choose from. Scholarships help reduce the cost, widening the choosing pool. Jumping at every opportunity is a good strategy for paying less for college.
There is not much to worry about, besides being accepted or not and stupid mistakes.
“I figured out on January 2nd, the day after the app was due, that I applied to Cornell College in Iowa rather than Cornell University, the ivy school,” Arun said, “which I had meant to apply to.” He also said he forgot to change a couple of scholarship essays for different schools, like saying Tulane to the University of Indiana.
Besides avoiding accidents, there are not many things to worry about. Arun said with a laugh that he does not really have any worries about college, “other than the fear that my roommate will be like a meth addict.”
Even with lingering fears Rahman is optimistic.
“I think it will be the right environment and even if I do end up missing my family I know I’ll make new friends and they’re really nice there,” she said.
[/tab][tab title=”Money Matters”]
[heading style=”1″]Graduate weighs in on cost of college, stress in applying[/heading]
During her senior year at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School in Nashville, Tenn., Vanisha Patel was in a dilemma with colleges as she had to choose between her favorite university, University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill, or Emory University.
However, Patel had to compromise her favorite university for a less money demanding, Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. Patel said she liked Chapel- Hill more because it is considered one of the best in biomedical engineering, her favorite subject. However, she said she knew that her brother, Kishan Patel, also had go to college and medical school so she didn’t want her brother and parents to face a large debt that would stop Kishan from going to a good university.
“To study at Chapel-Hill, I had to pay $40,000 yearly, and for Emory I had to pay $15,000,” Patel said. “Even though my parents told me to go to Chapel-Hill, I knew it was a little too expensive, and Emory was basically as good as Chapel- Hill and a lot less expensive.”
Patel said money is one of the biggest problems with colleges, especially private universities. Money prohibited Patel from learning biomedical engineering, and she believes students should get to their college of desire and not have to compromise anything because the undergraduate years at a college are a very integral part of life.
“I think money can be a big problem for a lot of people,” she said. “Not everyone’s parents make and can pay more than $30, 000 year and, in some cases, the student has to pay the money by himself. It was a problem for me and stopped me from going to my favorite university. However, I am glad my parents started saving money for my college and my brother a long time ago. That should be the case for everyone. Money shouldn’t stop someone going to a college.”
The parents of these student also go through the same problem where they.
“Money is certainly a big problem, but I started to save money for my children when they were in fifth grade,” Dinesh Vasavada, the father of Vanisha Patel, said. “Vanisha also earned financial aid which cuts your annual payment I think that really helped both of us. I gave Vanisha an option to go to UNC, but she refused, and I think she made the correct decision because Emory is in driving distance from here and has a good Medical program.”
Money adds a lot of tension into the whole admissions process, but financial aid and early saving can help a lot as it did to Vanisha and her parents, but the stress of the admissions’ process also plays a role in how the applicant fares during senior year.“Oh, yes, stress is definitely something I had to deal with and it for sure was something that bugged me the whole process,” Patel said.
Patel thinks her stress didn’t only come from the admissions part of the process, but the stress was aggravated by the environment.
“In the process, you have to write many essays, fill out thousands of form, and, the worst is waiting for your results because you know how important this is for you,” Patel said. “But, I feel like the people around you add to the pressure. When I go to Indian parties with my parents, there are always other parents who ask me where I got in and where I didn’t. There is also this competition kind of thing with all other Indian students in my school.”
Even though Patel faced all this stress, she founded out ways to avoid or forget about the stress.
“You have to forget about the environment and tell yourself you did your best and you also have to ignore this competition,” Patel said. “My parents also supported me and advocated helpful ways to calm myself down.”
Patel said there are useful ways to decrease a person’s stress level because you get a lot of support from your parents and have that self-belief that reminds you of the hard work you put in to do all activities in the whole process. The same stress level continues into the years of college.
“Yes, that same stress is going to get you again in college,” Patel said. “But it is a different type of stress. You have to find a good roommate and have to start concentrating on your future job and start preparing for it. It’s very true one has to very quickly adapt to the college culture. You have to make new friends, eat different food and prepare for the hard courses.”
The most important thing to sustain the pressure in college is make a reliable friend group. With friends, students can ask each other questions and get help anytime wanted.
“I think my friend circle helps me a lot,” Patel said. “I am so glad I have all these friends who are there for me.”
Students can absorb the pressure from their classes at college by making a trustworthy friend circle that can help each other any time. There are many obstacles that students have to face in their admissions process and at college, but the obstacles are certainly surmountable. Patel said each of those obstacles can be passed through your self-confidence and the friends and family surrounding the students. There is a lot of support everywhere and people have to believe in themselves and not lose their self-esteem.
“There is no reason to be afraid of college or the whole process,” Patel said. “Everyone has to overcome the same barriers. If people believe in themselves, nobody can stop them. It’s as easy as that.”
[divider top=”1″][/tab][tab title=”The Counselor”]
[heading style=”1″]Admissions officer, counselors offer advice[/heading]
The college application process comes near the end of the first semester one’s senior year in high school. It is a time filled with anxiety and hectic scheduling. Guidance counselor’s inboxes explode with questions, recommendations and application essays to be revised. Students are under a tremendous amount of pressure in all of their classes, activities and sports and the weight of all of this shows the seniors how heavy life really can be.
Counselors also bear much of the pressure that the students are quick to lay off on them. One RBHS counselor, Rachel Reed, has an overflowing work load during application time.“For me as a counselor, the hardest part is managing the onslaught of recommendation requests,” Reed said. “[And] making sure we are allowing ourselves plenty of time to write thoughtful recommendations, and getting those sent in by the deadline.”
High school seniors sometimes have a hard time keeping composure and poise, and some often ask for more than just a recommendation letter. Although Reed affirmed that most of the help the students receive from them is in recommendation letters, they also help with a wide variety of things, such as researching university choices and helping fill out an application.
While many students commit to jobs, sports, activities and volunteering to get into prestigious private schools, public state schools like the University of Kansas take very few things into account, said KU Senior Admissions Representative Lacey Koester.
“At KU, we currently evaluate students based upon the criteria of test scores, high school rank, and GPA,” Koester said. On the Kansas Applications site, admission requirements for non-Kansan freshmen are a 24+ ACT score or a 1090+ SAT score, or a rank in the top third of your graduating class, or a 2.5+ GPA.
However, in more selective private schools, such as Yale in New Haven, Conn., a wider variety of criterion is used to select students. Not just grades and test scores are evaluated, but leadership character, student activities and much more are used to determine a student’s admission status.
Through the changes in time, college tuition has also drastically changed. In 1960, the tuition for the very prestigious University of Pennsylvania was $1,250, and when adjusted for inflation to today is just under $12,000. The tuition for Penn is now just under $40,0003; the price of every college in America has also raised astronomically just like the University of Pennsylvania.
And as the colleges become more selective and expensive, students strive harder to be the best of the best. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the number of AP Exam takers has tripled from 0.6 million students to 1.8 million students.
Students have also become more likely to get a graduate degree and someone with an undergraduate or graduate degree in 1999 will make more money their first year out of college than someone who has the same degree in 2009.
The National Center of Educational Statistics shows that high school, post high school degrees, and early career jobs are becoming less rewarding and more difficult for the young adults. The new era of education is pushing students well beyond the what used to be the finish mark in the 1970s.