Helena Abrams, ‘16
The class of 2017 now finds themselves in one of the most exciting and confusing stages of their BHSEC career: beginning the college application process. All of a sudden, you have the green light from the school to start finding out where you are going to go once you leave BHSEC’s walls. Most of the best advice is advice that won’t be truly understood until the process is over, and then you will tell your own younger friends the same advice in hopes that they might grasp it at the beginning. These tips are ones that I wish I had known earlier on, and although my college process was different from anyone else’s (see tip 5), I feel like this advice is important and applicable to everyone in one way or another, whether it be your guiding light or something to keep in the back of your mind.
1. Your CTO advisor is your friend. During the college process, you will have a lot of questions about applying in general, but also ones that are specific to you. Your college advisor is there for every step in the process. Whether you have a specific question about a certain school or just have no clue what you are doing and need some guidance, your advisor will be able to help you find the answers you are looking for. On top of that, by checking in with them on a regular basis, they will remember your previous conversations and be able to continuously guide you without you having to re‐explain the more intricate and personal details of your process so far. No matter how silly, unreasonable, or unprepared your question may seem, your CTO advisor is there to help.
2. Get to know what you want through filters. We are privileged enough to live in a world with hundreds and thousands of incredible institutions. That can be overwhelming to those who have no idea what they are looking for and can also be completely insignificant to those that already know what they want before even starting. For both groups and everyone in between, I recommend taking the time to go through the basic filters used in all college search websites and books: size, location, research vs. liberal arts, private vs. public, etc. You don’t need to take a very opinionated stand on every one of these categories, but figure out what things do matter to you. Consider what each of these filters entail for your experience: for example, a large school will tend to be more diverse but might have larger class sizes, a small liberal arts school might restrain you from studying something you might want to pursue. Even if you think you know exactly what you are going for, take the time to go through these easy filters to get a good idea of what qualities you want in your school.
3. Get started – but don’t rush. Some parts of the college application process go very quickly (last minute supplements, scheduling an interview), but a majority of the process is slow. I found myself checking in with my advisor constantly in the early fall, thinking that there was more that I should be doing. As a Year 1 student, you have a lot of time to figure things out. Whether it is writing your first drafts of a college essay or making college lists, you don’t need to find your match immediately. The CTO team will drill into your head the basic timeline for applications, but aside from those necessary guidelines, you have a lot of time to play around with different ideas and schools. Work on little pieces at a time throughout the summer. Make sure you are scheduled for your any standardized tests you plan to take. After those, you are prepared for Year 2 fall.
4. Ms. Randall and the Writing Center are brilliant tools. Use them but don’t stall. I don’t care if you have never used the writing center in the entire stretch of your BHSEC career. When it comes to your college essay and supplements, the writing center is where you go. Ms. Randall has reads hundreds, if not thousands, of college essays, and she knows exactly how to guide you to writing the best piece you can. Most people go more than once to meet with her, and my word of advice is as soon as you have a rough draft ready, you should schedule your first meeting. As deadlines approach, all of a sudden, spots to meet with her become few and far between and you don’t have enough time to fully go through her comments. In addition to the queen of the writing center, the writing center tutors are also available and offer a different kind of assistance. Checking a supplement with a fellow Year 2 student can be helpful because they understand the prompt and might have helpful college application knowledge. Reviewing a piece with a Year 1 student will help you step outside the college bubble and see your essay as a polished personal piece, one that your tutor will ensure is memorable and clearly written.
5. No one else’s college process will be the same as yours. Everyone’s financial position is different. Every has a different set of strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has different taste. Everyone has a different stage of planning in mind for their own different futures. There is no reason to compare your process to anyone else’s. While you will be able to support others with their essays and lists and breakdowns, there is no reason why anyone else’s decisions should influence your decisions. If you don’t want to apply to a small liberal arts school, don’t apply just because all of your friends are solely applying that kind of school. If you aren’t as strong in one area of your application as a classmate, that doesn’t mean that they are a shoe‐in and you have no chance. Your application is your application, and it shouldn’t be influenced or viewed in distaste due to anyone else’s opinions or application.
6. Don’t worry so much. The scariest part of my application process was seeing some of my friends touring dozens of schools in June of Year 1 and others not even beginning their essays until late in the fall of Year 2. I was surrounded by people who were freaking out about supplements and interviews, and others who were more focused on financial aid. And then there I was, with my essay done and a lack of stress. Shouldn’t I be freaking out too? Wasn’t there something I should be doing, something that should be worrying me? I will never forget sitting in the CTO for advisory, and when asked what we were most worried about, half of my classmates said the same thing that I did: “I’m worried that I’m not worried enough.” There were parts of the application process that were stressful for me and I never would have considered I wasn’t worried enough, but there were also extended periods of time that I had things under control. In the end, everything is going to work out the way that it is supposed to. The process is not impossible, and you have all the resources around you to submit your best application. You can do it!