On Dec. 5, 2023, inside the quiet room located in the Mathews Library, five seniors met to discuss the college admissions process.
Zoe Genetos is applying for a Kinesiology or Human Biology major, Mia Crowder is applying for an Environmental Science major and Ike George is applying for a Bioengineering and Business major. Aakash Arumugam is looking to take the pre-med pathway and Eshaan Dhaliwal is applying for Biochemistry.
Q: What matters the most to you while looking for colleges?
Genetos: I’ve always loved going to school that has a lot of school spirit. I like going where people are proud of where they are.
They are proud to be there, they like to rep their school, they like to show up for games — that was a big thing. They’re mingling. Friendships are being made and communities are being made.
Also, research is such a big thing, especially with getting into med school. You definitely need to be doing research, so how much the school is funneling into research is important to me.
Some of the schools I’ve visited funnel billions of dollars into it, some of them are just a couple million.
Those are my two main factors.
Crowder: After going to small schools pretty much my whole life, I thought about going to a bigger school, but after actually visiting schools, I found that I really like small schools.
I think they have a lot more unique opportunities for more people.
George: Research opportunities are kind of a big thing, and also like Food culture:
I’m wearing a University of Washington sweater right now, and I think at least half of the reason I am applying there is because Seattle allegedly has the best Japanese cuisine outside of Japan and Hawaii.
Arumugam: There’s this dual degree between a bachelor’s and BS/MD program, so I looked for colleges that have that program, which is only a selective 20 or 25 colleges. I applied to mostly those, early.
Q: How did you balance the college application process with your academic responsibilities and other commitments?
George: I did some schoolwork, and after 11 p.m., I worked on college apps. It works out pretty well, because the more impaired I am in my head, the more beautiful I write. I wrote three different personal statements, all of them at 2 a.m., and they were beautiful.
Dhaliwal: I tried to make really good use of that week when we didn’t go to Ashland, and I tried to get as much done during then.
Otherwise, I’ll have to work during school or on weekends. I think using breaks (over the summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas) effectively is really important.
Crowder: I’ve never had to write so many essays, which is just like a really difficult thing to do. The types of questions that they ask require you to really reflect on who you are.
Writing about yourself is just a different type of writing, it’s really hard to do, and you kind of have to learn that.
You can’t do everything over the summer, so a lot of it just leads into having to balance it during school which has been difficult.
I’ve had to drop a couple of schools I was applying to because I didn’t have time to write those essays, which is okay because I had enough, but still I just wasn’t expecting to get that jam-packed with work.
Arumugam: I think the Senior Self-evaluation really helped because they were pretty much similar to the UC questions if not identical.
I found out that as you write more and more essays, you get more and more experienced, and after you write like 10 or 15 essays, it just becomes repetitive and pretty much the same except for the “Why us?” essay.
Q: What about the application process did you find the most challenging?
Crowder: The hardest part was writing about myself because you kind of have to do it in a way that doesn’t sound like bragging but is still talking about all the things that you do, because you do want to look good and get into a school.
You have to be honest, but also be confident enough to talk about the things that you do and present yourself as a worthy applicant, which is pretty hard to do.
Genetos: I agree with Mia. There’s a very fine line that’s hard to sit on between confidence and sounding like you’re bragging.
It’s hard to talk about yourself because, for me, I talk about one of my biggest accomplishments and it’s like, how do I say all this without being like, “Yeah, I did this, and I am just so awesome.”
Also, it’s important to find a way to keep yourself in your essay while also taking the suggestions from counselors, finding a balance between, “Yeah, my counselor may not like this part, but I really liked this part and I think this part makes it me.”
Dhaliwal: My problem is that it’s so easy to just sit there with a huge pile of essays and a bunch of daunting work and not getting started.
Q: Do you guys have any advice for younger classmates?
Crowder: I’d say definitely start early, which is hard to do and what everyone’s telling you to do. But just start thinking at least about what you’re passionate about, or things that you like or might want to get into and possibly write about.
Also, really use your resources. Write the things that Ms. Perla tells you to write and have meetings with her and Mr. Hinojosa. Even if it’s kind of intimidating to ask, you should definitely do it because it really helps, and it honestly takes stress off of the whole process.
Genetos: My thing is get your stuff in line — know what activities you’ve done, know which ones to talk about and start figuring out which ones are going to be your main 10 for the Common App.
This is more for juniors, but you should find and figure out who you want to write your letters of recommendation. Figure out which teachers have seen you grow the most, and in what aspects. It’s teachers who you have really talked with and really grown in their class, not just picking a teacher because you have an “A” in their class.
Dhaliwal: I think in terms of essays, doing very specific research on schools, so you can bring up specific details, especially for the “Why us?” essay.
Mentioning specific offerings from schools, specific research and specific professors help show interest for those kinds of essays.
I think an even better way to do it is if you can relate it to you. That’s a really nice way to show that you’ve done your research, and you actually have a vision to continue doing something that you already invested time into.
Arumugam: This is more towards athletes, though I guess anyone could do this, but just emailing the coaches and emailing whatever programs you are interested in to show demonstrated interest.
Different colleges value demonstrated interest differently. I went to a conference at NYU, and I think they value demonstrated interest a lot.
I think that it really helps because it keeps you connected with the coaches or like whoever and they could probably even offer you a letter of support to get into college.
Crowder: If I could do it again, I would apply to harder schools to get into. I think I kind of sold myself short and I just assumed I wouldn’t get into these places, but, you really just don’t know unless you try.