College application process causes seniors to scramble

Claire Gilliland, News Editor

The most stressful part about senior year for many students is the college applications.

Personal statements — essays that some colleges expect students to write so they can learn more about them — are part of this process.  They help colleges understand who applicants are and the things that they have experienced.

“Think of it as your opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions and scholarship officers reading your application,” says the University of California at Berkeley’s admissions website.

Some seniors believe that the emphasis on personal essays make applying to colleges more stressful.

“The personal statements are the hardest part about college applications because you’re telling them a synopsis, like who you are and what you are about,” senior Sarah Seybold said.

Seybold was accepted into Cal Poly by early decision, which for some schools means the college was her top choice and she agreed to attend if admitted.  She will be majoring in environmental management and protection.

Students only need to fill out one application for the UCs, even if they are applying to more than one, but that doesn’t make the process easier.  The UCs have two prompts with a combined limit of a thousand words, which can be difficult.

“It is a problem having too much to say,” senior Natalia Gevara said.  “It just seemed like there was so much pressure to make sure it was absolutely perfect.  I remember I went over it so many times and had my teacher check it over, so that took me probably a month.”

For students like Gevara looking for on-campus help on their college applications, there are a few options.

It just seemed like there was so much pressure to make sure it was absolutely perfect.”

— Natalia Gevara

“Other teachers as well as the counseling staff can help students,” English teacher Lynda Farrar said.  “[College and career center advisor Janet] Hobart is also available for at least basic logistics having to do with applying to college.”

Farrar uses one of the UC personal statement prompts as an assignment in her English 12 AP class and offers one-on-one help to seniors who ask her to edit other personal statements.

College applications, especially ones that require personal statements, can take a long time and those with experience agree it is best to start early.

“I like doing that assignment with the kids and I like doing it early enough in the year, usually in September, so that when they start doing their applications in October and November they already have one written,” Farrar said.

Another big part of college is being able to afford it, and for many this is only possible with financial aid, scholarships, grants, and student loans.

“I really am going to depend on [writing scholarships] to help me pay for college and it’s just kind of another thing that you have to push yourself to do,” Gevara said.

Since there are so many scholarships available, it’s best to apply to as many as possible.

“I’m applying to scholarships that are specific for my major from the county, so not a lot of people apply to them, so I’m more likely to get those scholarships,” Seybold said.  “I’m hoping to get money from the FAFSA and Cal grants.”

Hobart is available most days before, during, and after school to help advise students when it comes to personal statements, when to submit applications, how to categorize their classes within the A-G requirements, scholarship applications and financial aid.

Seniors who have completed or are currently working on college applications and scholarship applications have advice for younger students who are planning on going to college in years to come.

“Work on your community activities and the things that you do outside of just your academics, like your sports and things because they do look at those,” Seybold said.  “Things like volunteer work really matter.”

“You have to find something about yourself that makes colleges say, ‘hey, I want you,’” Gevara said.

Though the process of applying to colleges and for financial aid and scholarships may be intimidating, seniors agree that it’s worth it in the end.

“[When I found out I got into Cal Poly] I was so excited because it’s my dream school and I’ve wanted to go there pretty much all of high school,” Seybold said.