College Process Advice

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The college admissions process can be scary, I get that. Fortunately, as Friends School students, we have access to a great resource. I’m talking about the college counseling team. This article is about what you, personally, can do to ease the process as a junior. It’s easy to freeze at the thought of subject tests, supplemental essays, and recommendations. Put off registering for that SAT at Gilman. Worry that everyone else who’s applying to your school is better, smarter, and more organized than you. Don’t even bother applying to your reach schools, they won’t accept you.

Have you ever heard that saying: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work”? It’s something to remember as you begin this process. At the end of the day, you won’t just wake up with boundless talent, ace your ACT, and slide comfortably into a selective, New England liberal-arts school. Hard work seems too obvious to be a good strategy, but it makes a difference. Universities note the effort you put into an essay, be it for the Common App, the Coalition App, or a supplemental. So, revise. Take a step back and revise it again.

When people tell me how hard it is to write about themselves, they always tell me that they’re “not interesting enough.” The hardest part about this is getting started. You have to be willing to say, “I am interesting. I have a story to tell.”

Email the admissions rep you had a conversation with. If you are interested in a college, arrange to meet with a faculty member in your department of choice. Apply for an internship. If it was meaningful, figure out a way to include it in an essay. Old copies of the ACT are available online. Print some out and take them as if it was a real test. Keep up your grades. When it feels like too much, remember that there is the Friends community and a talented college counseling department standing with you. Everything will be okay!  -Ben Burgunder


Spend a lot of time thinking about what you want in a college and what you to have gained four years later. This will help guide you in choosing which colleges to visit and eventually apply to. Once you have a list of specific schools (and you will get a carefully curated one from the college guidance department), take time to explain why you want to attend each college you are interested in. If you can’t come up with an answer, or your interest lies in the “name brand”  of the college, you should spend more time reflecting, or look at other colleges. Maybe at first it’s something silly, like that you liked how the campus looked like Hogwarts, but work so that it develops into a meaningful list of reasons. It is a good idea to write down your reasons as you think of them — for all my applications, I had to write an essay about why I decided to apply.

Don’t let your fear of rejection prevent you from taking the risk to apply. However, an application is not something to be taken lightly. Careful reflection should be present at every step of the process, but if somewhere really feels right and makes you excited, don’t get discouraged by acceptance rates. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment, either: fall in love with not only some of your reach schools, but with your middles and foundations, too.

You may feel guilty about having special connections to a place, or special skills that set you apart, but this is the moment to pull out all the stops. Know someone on the admissions committee? Reach out; find out exactly what they’re looking for. The adult may tell you they are not permitted to help you, but I found that I got great advice from reaching out. Play a sport? Have your coach contact college coaches, even if you think you aren’t good enough. You might be surprised at how eager coaches are to have you — I know I was. You never know what a coach is looking for, and it doesn’t hurt to ask. Is there something interesting or unique about you? Write about it. Know alumni? Call them up; list them on your application.

The most important part of your college application, in general, is your transcript, but there are other important parts, too. Choose carefully which teachers you ask to write your recommendations. Ideally, any teacher of yours could write you a good review, but choose to ask teachers who really know you. Aim for teachers you’ve had later in your high school career, and it’s even better if they’ve worked with you outside the classroom so they have a strong sense of who you are (this could be a teacher who you saw often outside of class time for extra help; that teacher would be better able to write about your work ethic than one who only saw you for class time). And for the college essay: start early; write, revise, write again, edit, and write some more. -Helena Ware

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