Class of 2023’s Guide to College Applications 

Kayla Tehero, Staff Writer

The school year is wrapping up and IHS students eagerly anticipate the beginning of summer; a refreshing break from the stressors and pressures of the five-day school week. But for many juniors, this summer may not be a break from stress after all. For those juniors who hope to attend a four-year college after high school, the summer before senior year is often jam-packed with responsibilities: a part-time job, internships, and the daunting college application process, all with the goal of making themselves a worthier applicant. For some students, they have gotten a plan set in stone. Junior Daniella Bone said, “I am planning on doing a couple of research internships and writing some essays over the summer to get ready. I have already started thinking about ideas, but I will probably start writing as soon as mid-June.” But the majority of juniors feel overwhelmed by the future of college applications, and do not even know where to apply, even when they know the deadlines are fast approaching. Junior Marcus Hibpshman reflected, “I do not know, I should probably start doing them soon.” 

I have felt personally overwhelmed by the task of applying to colleges. To make it easier for myself and my peers, floundering through unknown waters, I interviewed graduating seniors about their personal experiences with the college application process and what advice they would share with the class of 2024. Here is what they said: 

If you do not even know where to begin, the first step is to start deciding which schools you want to apply to. I recommend starting a list of places you might be interested in going and running your list through your own personalized rating system. Consider what things are important to you. A school’s location, campus size, campus culture, average standardized test scores, acceptance rate, tuition price, and available majors are all important parts about choosing a school that is right for you. Decide which aspects are most important to you and rate your schools higher for meeting those crucial requirements. If you still need more information about the schools, senior Sofia Gonzalez recommended an insider perspective. “Something that helped me was talking to other people who went to the colleges I applied to; talking to them about what their daily life was like is super useful.” This will help give you some perspective on how the different schools compare for you personally. Senior Quinn Ryan stressed the importance of making these decisions on your own, saying, “Do not settle for somewhere your friend is going, or somewhere your parents would like you to go. Go to the best place for yourself.” 

For students whose primary concern is finances, it is important to consider the scholarship opportunities at your schools of interest. Senior Matthew Hrmich advised, “Apply to schools with scholarships. If you Google the school’s merit scholarships, there is a page on their website about the kinds of aid and scholarships they offer.” Many private, more expensive schools are more generous with scholarships and financial aid than advertised. Even if a school’s sticker tuition is outside of your budget, do not rule it out until you are aware of all your financial options.  

Once you have compiled a list of colleges, prioritize your top picks and start your application process as soon as possible. Senior Mikayla McGrath shared, “Start early, and do not worry if you do not know what is happening. Because you will not know what is happening, ever, until you get started.” It may seem daunting, but the sooner you get started, the easier it will be. Set up the accounts you need to submit them: Common App, Coalition for College, and/or the UC App (for University of California schools). Familiarize yourself with the requirements, especially the essay prompts. Many seniors would agree with senior Pranav Vulisetti that “the essays were the most challenging part. Especially if you are applying to a lot of colleges, you have to write a lot of essays.” 

But despite applications being a complicated, multistep process, you should not have to feel like you have to do it totally alone. Consult with friends, family, online resources, and other consultants you have available. McGrath said, “For me personally, hearing stuff from my parents is hard because even if they give good advice, I am like, ‘You do not know what you are talking about, you applied to college thirty years ago!’” Although it can be humbling to ask others for help, do not hesitate because their alternative perspective may be exactly what your essay needs. 

And lastly, be confident, take risks, and challenge yourself. Senior Kali Kleven shared an inspiring story about her application process. “I was not going to submit my application to New York University, because it is such a huge school and so hard to get into. But my sister submitted it for me, and I got waitlisted but then actually got in. If you feel like you want to apply, just go for it. Who cares if you do not get in?” Kleven’s uplifting story is a good reminder that college applications are an opportunity to show what you have done and what you will continue to do for the rest of your life. So, as you pummel head-first into this challenging but pivotal era, just remember to work hard, try your best, and express yourself to your fullest. And do not worry, it will be over before you know it.