I am currently a senior at William Floyd High School and I have been in Girls Inc. of Long Island for about 6 years now, and I recently committed to Columbia University as a Rabi Scholar! The process of applying to colleges was long and tedious, but it is worth it in the end. There are a few key things that I wish I’d known beforehand and through the process that I think are vital to keep in mind.
High School Journey
Throughout high school, it is important to find what you’re most interested in and stick with it. Explore what you want to do, don’t just take on clubs that you think will look good on a college application. Colleges look for people who are passionate and committed, and it’s important to use your time to also help people around you. Early on, try and build relationships with your teachers, mentors, or club advisors, so you can go to them for support and guidance that can truly be helpful within the chaos of high school. In addition, these relationships can foster great letters of recommendation in the future that can push you over the edge with the admissions committee.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Everyone has topics that are difficult for them to understand. Your teachers are there as a resource to you, as well as online sources such as Khan Academy.
Khan Academy was also a great resource for me when studying for the SAT. Their practice SAT questions and videos are linked directly to College Board, so it is the best, free, resource that can allow you to accurately practice for the exam. However, don’t just complete questions with no time constraints. Be sure to keep track of topics that you struggle with and practice practice practice! It is important to allocate three hours to sit down and complete an entire practice test to feel the pressure of time. Another option for standardized tests is the ACT, which I personally favored. It is not affiliated with College Board but tests similar skills. There are four sections instead of three: a reading comprehension section, math section, science section, and grammar section. The science section sounds intimidating, but it only tests basic science skills, reading figures, and reading comprehension. Colleges will accept both, so I recommend trying them both out early in your junior year to see what you do best on. Some colleges also require or recommend two to three SAT subject tests. These are one hour long exams that test specific topics, such as math or biology. If you know you excel at a certain topic, SAT subject tests are the perfect way to emphasize your skills even more. All these tests do cost money, but it is very easy to ask your counselor for a fee waiver, for any of the tests above, and for college applications too!
The summer before senior year is the perfect time to start preparing for college applications. However, the summers throughout high school are important too! Colleges want to see that you are using your time wisely, whether that be conducting research at a lab, volunteering at a local shelter, or attending a Girls Inc. camp. Some colleges even want you to write about your summer experiences. So when you get to senior year, it is important to keep a few things in mind to help you push through. First off, remember that the admissions committee views your application holistically. Your scores don’t define you, your experiences do. Your background and environment make you the person you are, and you should reflect that in your college essays. Speaking of, I definitely recommend starting to write your common app essay and college supplements over the summer. You might think you will have time to complete the pieces in the fall, but time will fly by and you will be scrambling to finish a 600-word essay the day the application is due. Make multiple drafts and explore different ideas. Just like with the clubs, it’s important to find a topic that you are passionate about and that really defines you, so colleges can see who you are as a person. Once you have some ideas, get feedback from as many people as you can, parents, friends, teachers, anyone. Power through your writing pieces, and be sure to be genuine- don’t just spout what you think the college wants to hear.
Scholarships and Ending Remarks
Also, summer is the optimal time to start looking for scholarships! There are so many scholarships for full rides or similar numbers that are available to everyone. In particular, there is an amazing program called QuestBridge, where you apply over the summer and go through a different application process that provides guidance and gives you the opportunity to achieve a full ride to amazing, prestigious schools. Do your research and you will find so many opportunities to pay for your education. When choosing colleges to apply to, choose a variety of different colleges that you think you would fit best in. Tours are helpful in this process, but virtual tours are available for any college that you are considering. Once you have submitted your application, relax, but not too much! You still need to keep your grades up senior year, as colleges look at your progress. You might also receive requests for alumni interviews, where you should just be yourself. One final piece of advice, whatever happens, happens for a reason. You will end up where you are supposed to be and succeed wherever you go in life. Never give up hope, and persevere, and you will see your path to success form right before your eyes! Please email me if you or someone you know needs any advice or tips, I am happy to help!