College Application Process Reflections

By Kevin Chen

The 2022 college admissions cycle has just ended at the Seven Hills School, and many seniors are currently deciding where to go for next year. The end of this admissions cycle means the beginning of the college application process for Seven Hills’ juniors. Currently, most juniors are brainstorming both a college list and ideas for their Common Application essays. 

As many college websites state, admissions officers employ a “holistic review”, a form of review that evaluates applicants based on their extracurriculars, passions, circumstances, and potential contributions to the campus in addition to their academic performance and test scores. Thus, the college essay is a critical component of the application because it helps admissions officers know the candidates on a personal level. Regarding how to write a strong essay, Collin Chen, an incoming freshman at Vanderbilt University, said, “I looked at a lot of examples to kind of make a general outline. The contents of my essay were all about myself, but I used story and discrete methods of showing accomplishments and interests. There was a recurring theme throughout my essay.” I agree with Collin about keeping the essay personal and unique. Like him, I wrote my college essay based on how my most important extracurricular activities impacted my personal development in high school. Accordingly, juniors should write about a topic that best captures their personal qualities rather than a topic that they assume fits the criteria of the admissions officers. However, most importantly, planning is the key to an essay’s success. Manan Vij, a senior at Seven Hills, said, “Just start early and think about it often.”

As juniors are creating their college lists, the first schools that may come to mind are the most selective universities. These schools have experienced the biggest application increases since the test-optional policy was passed, and their admissions criteria are the most obscure. It’s okay to have a dream school, but having backup schools is just as important. You can’t let not getting into your dream school affect your other accomplishments and applications. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get into your dream school, and you can always transfer. Additionally, a higher ranking does not indicate one university is completely better than another with a lower ranking. Vij said, “Focus more on programs and less on the prestige. Your college success depends on the strength of the program. Sometimes the prestigious schools say they have resources, but there is a lot of competition for these resources.” 

At the end of the day, admissions officers are human beings, too, and they cannot evaluate every applicant perfectly. For me, I have noticed the common belief that a college acceptance indicates whether or not one’s hard work and sacrifices are worth it. In the long run, the knowledge acquired is always more valuable. However, I acknowledge that college rejections do hurt and any negative emotions associated with these are completely justifiable. Overall, I encourage juniors to show humility and empathy to each other whether they receive favorable or unfavorable news.