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The Aquilian

The Aquilian

Making my way through the college application process and getting to the other side


The college process can be very stressful, and this feeling is only magnified by lack of knowledge or clarity.

As a senior this year, my college decision was recently due May 1, 2023. Now that I have finished the process, I want to share some lessons I gleaned and some decisions I wish I would have made differently. 

The beginning stages of the college process are very overwhelming because no one really knows what is going on or what will happen yet. Common worries regard how to choose which colleges to apply to, SAT scores and studying, how to write the perfect college essay and how to craft the perfect application to guarantee admission to my number one school. 

It is best to apply to a range of schools, some ‘safety’ schools, ‘target’ schools, and ‘reach’ schools. Safety schools are those that you are certain you would get into regarding your grades, scores and extracurricular activities, while target schools are the schools you should be aiming for, and reach schools are more competitive schools that you are interested in but are not guaranteed a spot. It is best to review with your college counselor each of the schools you are interested in, to understand which category they fit into and how to think about your options as a result. 

SAT scores are  only one part of the puzzle, albeit an impactful part. Everyone scores differently, and it is best to remember that your worth as a student and your intelligence are not predicted by the number you see on the CollegeBoard. 

The score each person gets is relative to the college experience they are looking for. Different scores warrant different reactions from different schools. However, my biggest regret from my own college experience was thinking that mere exposure and simply taking the test repeatedly would cause my score to improve drastically. Your score can improve just by taking it, as mine did, but if you are looking for a significant change, you must study the topics you missed on a past SAT. This fact is why paying the extra money, which is bothersome, is worthwhile to see the results of your test when they are published. 

Writing the perfect college essay is not possible because perfection is entirely subjective. What you think is the perfect essay might be agreed with by one college but not held in such high regard at another. 

The key to writing a memorable, meaningful college essay is vulnerability. Open yourself up to sharing a pivotal moment of your life, something you think about the world or telling a funny story. All of these options convey a deeper sense of your personality and character than the rest of your essay, which is why it is so important to be honest and willing to share who you are. Admissions committees are excited to see well-rounded, examined individuals and want these people on their campuses in the fall. 

Finally, the best application you can make is ultimately something that will come to you in the moment. There is not much planning that can be done. You will see the prompts in your applications and will be struck to answer them with a certain memory or fact about yourself that you think, again, conveys who you really are. The biggest lesson I can share when it comes to each college’s individual application is to start them as early as they open. Start working on them in August, it will make your time so much more manageable when application due dates begin to coincide with the time period around Gonzaga midterms and Christmas break. 

It is also very important to know that there are always people to talk to about the process. You have teachers who understand much better than you know what you are going through, college counselors whose job it is to assist you, but especially hundreds of peers going through the same difficulties at the same time as you. 

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