‘El Cid’s’ Unofficial College Applications Guide
With second semester underway, and applications complete, the Class of 2011 is college bound. El Cid collaborated with a few standout seniors to give underclassmen an unofficial guide to the college application process. Two proudly serve the CCHS community as Executive Ambassadors; the other is an ASB Executive member, but all three are ranked within the top 10% of the graduating class. From finding the right fit, to writing essays, these seniors related their own personal experiences during the college application process.
While most college counselors recommend seniors apply to 6-8 colleges, it was hard for seniors Devon Hillard, Olivia Balmert, and Paul Franke to narrow down their lists. “I applied to a total of 9 colleges, but to be honest, I wasn’t considering all of them. Even if one of your safety schools isn’t a real contender, still apply because they may give good financial aid, which can help you to bargain with the school you really want to go to,” said senior Devon Hillard.
According to CollegeBoard, most college application fees are between $35 and $50 and are usually nonrefundable. However, more elite colleges charge more; for instance, the application fee for Stanford University is $90.
“For numbers, the application fees and supplemental essays can start to add up, so 12 is a good maximum,” said senior Olivia Balmert.
Balmert said that one should “cast their net wide,” and apply to a wide array of schools. Typically, schools are classified as safeties, matches, or reaches. Safety schools are colleges that are almost guaranteed acceptances. Match schools are colleges that one should most likely get into based on academics and extracurricular activities. Finally, reach schools are colleges where being accepted is more difficult because of the high statistics of applicants or a low acceptance rate.
It’s great to shoot for the stars and apply to reacher schools, but make sure you apply to some back-ups just in case. Some applications make it easy for you to apply all at once to several colleges of multiple levels of selectivity, like the UC system. Make use of this opportunity!” said Balmert.
In addition to the academic reputation of the schools, it is important to keep other aspects in mind, such as the programs offered at the college or location of the school.
“I was really interested in journalism or public relations, so I wanted to find a school that had strong majors in those areas. I know internships were really important with this field, so I picked Chapman and UCLA because they have good relationships with businesses in the area and a history of placing students with good internships and jobs. I also wanted to stay in Southern California just because I love the area and I’m close to my family and want to be around for my siblings growing up,” said Hillard.
“Pick a college that has a program you want to study and lots of other options in case you change your mind. If you have a strong preference for location, apply to schools located where you would not mind living. Also, weather is an important factor to consider if you are used to sunny San Diego,” said Balmert.
The Common Application officially opens August 1st for prospective college applicants, and individual supplements can become available as early as July or as late as September. 414 colleges in 44 states use the Common Application, so the website includes an assortment of schools. Even though most applications are not due until January 1st, all three seniors recommended getting a head start on the essays because the application process is very writing-intensive.
“I believe I strongly underestimated the intensity of the college application process. I found supplements to be quite time consuming, and if an application is not part of the Common App, it becomes an even larger hassle. However, as it progresses the process becomes easier because you can recycle and alter various essays you have written,” said Franke.
Choosing the right college is only half of the whole college application process. The other half is convincing the college that as an applicant, one is a solid fit for the school, both academically and socially.
“Start early and seek out academic opportunities or community service projects that you can participate in and then discuss those experiences in your essays. The colleges I visited reiterated how important it is to stand out from the crowd and let the application reviewers remember you by saying something unique,” said Balmert.
“The best piece of advice I received on college applications came from my SAT tutor who got into almost the ivy league school a couple of years ago. He said that everyone gets caught up with the term “well-rounded” and that students should do every extra-curricular in the book. Colleges actually want to see that you are “well-lopsided” person. In other words, having a lot of diverse experiences but still showing that you are particularly interested in a specific area, whether that be art, science, athletics, community service, etc. Figure out what your passionate about and make it shine through,” said Hillard.