Summer School Zone writer Katie Steed sends a message to high school juniors and seniors: Take this application advice from someone who just went through it.
SUMMER SCHOOL ZONE WRITER
Dear upcoming juniors and seniors:
Hi! My name is Katie Steed, and I am a freshman at the University of Central Florida. I’m here to give you some advice I wish I knew when I was applying to college.
JUNIOR YEAR GRADES
It is kind of nerve-wracking, but the most important year in your high school career is your junior year. It is the year by which college will judge your admission and determine if your academic life is compatible with their school. Not to say that if you had a rough junior year, you’re not going to get into college — that is incorrect. It is just a base year that colleges look at because you apply to colleges in your early senior year. There isn’t enough information on your senior year yet to determine anything about you.
Admission departments will look at all four years of high school, but because your junior year is the closest to you at the time, they look at this year the most. So all you can do is try your best, and don’t forget to have fun!
I know SAT/ACT scores are a little terrifying. I completely understand. I took my last SAT not even a year ago. It’s a very stressful process, but some tips can make your life easier when you’re taking an SAT or ACT.
First of all, do not procrastinate studying for the test — even if it’s just 10 minutes a day after you finish your homework or you get home from school. Something is better than nothing. Don’t try to overload your brain with information the night before; it doesn’t work.
Second, get a good night’s sleep before the test. Don’t try to cram all night, go to bed at 5 a.m. and then wake up at 7 a.m. for the 8 a.m. test. You’re just going to set yourself up for failure. All you can do is just accept that whatever will happen will happen and just try to get some good rest.
Third, don’t stress out about the number. I know the number is important for college admissions and Bright Futures scholarships, but you’re only going to be stressing out the whole time. Before you walk into the room, just take a deep breath and say to yourself, “I’m going to do my best, and that’s going to be OK with me.”
Although your SAT/ACT scores are important, it is not going to make or break your college admissions. Your extracurriculars, grades and recommendations also will be considered. Don’t think that if you have a below-average SAT/ACT score, then you’re not going into college. There are lots of other factors in your application process that can help make up for your lower test score.
When you’re applying to colleges, the most useful tool to use is Common App. Common App is a website that has hundreds of universities across the country, including all the Ivies, and public and private universities. If you’re trying to apply to a United States university, I recommend you use Common App. It is just a really simple way to do something very complex.
Most people you see on the internet apply to 10, 15 or 20 schools at one time. Although that might be OK for them, I would not recommend that. I applied to five schools, and that was more than enough.
When you apply for college, you want your application to stand out against others. You don’t have the time to put your one personal anecdote and spin on more than 10 applications. I recommend applying to about five to seven universities (and make sure at least one of those is a safety school).
Also, I would recommend you write an entrance essay. Even though not every college requires one, write one anyway. When you submit your application to a college, you are just a number to them. They’re not going to know anything about you as a person except for some random information about your demographics. An entrance essay is one of the only opportunities you have as a student to become more than a number. They can look at you, see what matters in your life and connect with a person and not just an application. Although there are prompts you can choose from, you can write about anything you want. And I mean anything. Just make sure what you write is a true reflection of who you are.
Make sure you leave your senior year with no regrets. It is such a unique experience; have fun with it!
Also, take some words of advice. By April of your senior year, you should know where you got into and basically where you think you’re going to school next year. DO NOT SLACK OFF! It is really easy to not want to do work when you know you’re going to a university, but that’s why colleges make you send in your final transcripts: to ensure you didn’t slack off once you got your acceptance. So just do your work and keep reminding yourself of the bigger picture.
And one last thing, don’t let college admissions define your worth. It is really easy to idolize a college and base your whole life on one application. College admissions are so random and are not a reflection of you as a person or student. Just because you got into one university but didn’t get into another doesn’t mean you weren’t smart enough for that school. There are tons of factors that contribute to college admissions, and a lot of them have nothing to do with what was on your application. Don’t let a school determine your feelings about yourself.
I did that with UCF. I wanted to get in, and I remember feeling, “If I don’t get into UCF, then I didn’t work hard enough in high school.” This was so not true, because I worked hard in high school. I’m extremely thankful I did get into UCF, but there were tons of people who didn’t get in, and they weren’t in any way less smart than me. It was just a decision made by the admission committee.
I hope this list of advice will help you in your upcoming years of high school, and I hope you’re proud of all you have and will accomplish!
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