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In a tumultuous school year such as this one, it was expected the college application process would change drastically, due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. With SATs becoming test-optional for most schools and an unprecedented increase in the number of applicants that each school received, it was easy to become bogged down with statistics. Yet, there was room for students applying to college to learn something new about themselves, as limitations provided students with new opportunities to plan ahead and discover hidden strengths within.
It goes without saying, your grades are important, as are any extracurriculars with which you are involved. Yet, it is just as important to make sure that this information is translated well onto applications. Familiarizing yourself with different resources and materials, whether they are online or in school, will most certainly help. “One resource that I used was CollegeVine. This is a website that allows students to upload their essays and supplements and receive feedback from verified reviewers for free. I used this website for all of my supplements, and the feedback that I got was very useful in helping me write a great essay. I also asked some college students whom I knew, and my English teacher asked students in our English class to write our Common App essay and gave feedback as well,” said Ananta Paul ’21. Other available resources include college 360 tours on YouTube, attending sessions with alumni and admissions officers, and exploring college websites.
While focusing on grades, SAT scores, and college essays are all important, being able to effectively manage time is just as important. “The advice I would give most isn’t to start essays early, which is what most people might say. What helped me most was keeping my thoughts about schools organized from the beginning of the process, constantly researching, and adding information to my spreadsheet of colleges. If you approach the researching element of the process piece by piece, you’ll find that it’s more enjoyable than if you find yourself struggling to catch up to others who are further along in the process,” said Jason Yamaguchi ’21.
College research includes getting to know colleges as they relate to the major that you may want to pursue. In addition, internships and classes that the school offers, research opportunities, opportunities to study abroad, and other extracurriculars, are all important when deciding what colleges to apply to. Never forget that financial circumstances will always play a role and it is important to have a discussion with your guidance counselor about the resources available to you that will help to make college affordable.
Looking back at this year, getting to understand colleges became a bit more difficult as the discovery process became virtual. “I had originally hoped to tour colleges in-person before the process began, so that I could get a feel for the culture of the school before choosing to apply. This year, I really had to choose which school I wanted to attend solely based on information from college websites, in addition to information from students I knew who attended the schools I was curious about,” said Enza Jonas-Giugni ’21.
Tiffany Zheng ’21 shares a similar experience. “I felt like we had more time to work on our college essays since we were all at home. However, I didn’t get to visit any schools which I intended to do, which made the hardest part of the process become brainstorming my Common App essay. I went through the brainstorming process for months and still didn’t know what to write.”
At the end of the day, it all pans out to planning ahead and learning to enjoy the process. When writing his Common App essay, Farhan Tanvir ’21 mentions how he made the most out of this year’s limitations. “The pressure to be creative was difficult to deal with because I had never really needed to write a creative essay of this magnitude before. All the big essays I’ve done for my AP exams and my state tests were very formulaic, so racking my brain to find an interesting part of me to portray was challenging.”
In the current circumstances that are less than ideal due to the ongoing pandemic, it is important to realize the reality of the situation. Seniors of the Class of 2021 are all too familiar with losing the final three months of our junior year, having to navigate a virtual playing field for the college application process, losing extracurricular opportunities, and suffering through any personal hardships that surfaced because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These factors played a role in influencing the way that we approached and felt about the college process. With a lot of those factors being out of our control, it is only natural that we learned to embrace change in the admissions process.
It is important that we take the time to acknowledge these feelings and meditate on future action. Giving yourself a head start on the college applications process will certainly alleviate a good amount of the stress that arrives from an already stressful process. And if you are not sure of what major that you will pursue in college, do not fret, because there is plenty of time to decide, before and even once you commit to a college. Whatever path you follow and wherever you may end up, being able to say that you have done your best will fill you with pride and determination.
If nothing else, just listen to Enza Jonas-Giugni, who noted, “If there was a next time, I would try to have a healthier mindset and trust myself more. It’s so easy to compare yourself to other people. I think you just have to remember that you worked super hard in high school as a Bronx Science student. Give yourself the credit you deserve! And don’t feel guilty about being proud of your accomplishments.”
“If there was a next time, I would try to have a healthier mindset and trust myself more. It’s so easy to compare yourself to other people. I think you just have to remember that you worked super hard in high school as a Bronx Science student. Give yourself the credit you deserve! And don’t feel guilty about being proud of your accomplishments,” said Enza Jonas-Giugni ’21.