The college admissions process was the longest process of my life. For me, this process started well before my junior year. As early as sixth grade, I was taking high school classes (Algebra 1). Well aware these classes would show up on my high school transcript, it was imperative for me to ace these classes. Given the help of some tremendous middle school math teachers – Mr. Chew, Mrs. Halford and Mr. Dow – I was not only able to get a great grade in these classes, but I was also able to retain all this information. The content I learned in my middle school math courses was probably the most important stuff I learned because that was what would be on the SAT test I would take my junior year.
Freshman year of high school, the process really ramped up as now every class would count towards my high school transcript. Attaining a 4.0 was the main goal and it took a lot of work but I came out of my freshman year with straight As. Sophomore year was the hardest year of my life as I had a ton of advanced classes balanced with sports and other activities. I barely survived that year but when the school year ended my 4.0 was still intact, barely. The positive side was that I had gotten a lot of difficult classes out of the way and I left myself with fewer classes for my junior and senior year so I could focus on other aspects of the college admissions process.
Now, up to this point, all my work in the college admissions process had come in the form of getting grades. The summer between my sophomore year and junior year, I had to start preparing for the second academic aspect of the college admissions process, standardized testing. Colleges look at both your high school GPA and SAT test scores as measures for your academic prowess so I had to make sure to excel in both of those aspects. After logging over 50 hours of studying and taking multiple practice tests, I was ready to take the SAT. My first time taking it (December 2018), I scored a 1470, which was a very good score. I ended up taking it again in March 2019 and increased my score to 1490. Coming out of my junior year, I had a 4.0 and a 1490 SAT score and was looking solid going into the final stretch.
The summer between junior and senior year consisted of a lot more studying, this time for a separate standardized test that was required at Ivy League colleges. As my senior year hit, I had scheduled my classes so that I did not have a lot of work and I could focus on actual college applications.
My senior year was when I finally started filling out applications. I know, all this work and I still have not even filled out the applications. Looking back retrospectively, the application process was probably the hardest. I applied to 12 schools, leaving a lot of essays to write. Almost every weekend, from September to December, was spent cooped up writing and editing my essays. 50 essays later, I had finished all my applications and was now awaiting my answers.
Fast forward to today, I have gotten all my answers and am currently waiting to make my final decision. The final tallies were denied from 3 colleges (Pennsylvania, Stanford and Northwestern), wait-listed by 3 colleges (Vanderbilt, North Carolina and Michigan) and accepted into 6 (Washington, Washington State, Minnesota, Pennsylvania State, Texas and Southern California). My decision comes down to the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of Texas – Austin. I am leaning towards USC but it all comes down to cost, which brings me what I am doing right now.
Currently, I am trying to apply to scholarships because after all this work it would be really unfortunate if I could not afford my dream school. Unfortunately, that is a real possibility, so I need all the scholarships I can get.
That was my process. It was a grind and required sacrificing a lot of my summer and weekends. There was despair when I got some denials back early and I felt like I did not do enough. But then when I got accepted to USC, I felt and unmatched sense of joy that made all the grind worth it. Now if you are about to embark on this process with you or someone you know, I have a few tips.
Start Early – Start filling out your applications in the summer before your senior year or whenever they open. Start writing your essays early so you can edit them and not have to rush.
Study for your SATs. Khan Academy is a free tool that you can use and you can easily up your score 100-200 points by spending some time studying.
If you have the money, apply to multiple colleges. Application fees can be a pain but there are ways to get that fee waived. Apply to some colleges that seem like stretches while mixing in target schools and safety schools. You never know what options you could create for yourself.
Remember everyone’s process is different. Do what makes you happy, because I know the results I got made me happy.