Tips for Juniors on the College Application Process


A student working on a laptop.

By Razina Ahmed, Academics Editor

With the class of 2021 on their way to graduate, the class of 2022 has likely started thinking about their plans post-high school. For many students, attending a college/university is the ultimate goal; however, the process to get that acceptance letter comes with completing some work beforehand. The college application process can seem daunting and stressful from the outside, but by planning ahead and practicing time management, students can ensure that they do not feel too overwhelmed in the process. Here are some tips from a graduating senior that you can utilize during the application process.

  1. Elaborate, elaborate, elaborate!

When applying for college, the admissions officers are looking to see if you are both academically qualified and if you will be a good fit on the campus. As a rising senior, your grades in high school are pretty much set in stone. The focus is now on making sure schools can understand who you are as a person. The best way you can do this is to elaborate on the writing portions of your application. For example, when listing out your extracurricular activities, don’t just list out what you did in them but also elaborate on what you learned from your experience. If you had a leadership position, write about what you did to ensure other members of your team were successful. The same concept applies to your Personal Statement and supplemental essays. Whether you’re describing a life experience for your Personal Statement or the clubs you would like to join in your supplemental essays, don’t just state the information but present it in a way that showcases what you’ve learned and how you will use that knowledge in your future endeavors. By doing this, it shows how you will make the most of your experience at the school you attend.

2. Don’t stress if essay ideas don’t come right away.

When looking at the Common App essay prompts, it can feel difficult to sit yourself down and draw on a single experience in your life that will make you stand out from the other applicants. A piece of advice for this hurdle is to start writing out the essay without looking at the prompts. All of the Common App essay Prompts have something in common, which is that they examine individual growth. One idea is to start by listing out ideas of key moments in your life when you may have faced a huge obstacle or a time when you had to do some self-reflection on your actions. The admissions officers like to see that you can connect what you learned from a personal experience to your future goals in college or beyond. However, if you stress yourself out trying to think of ideas, then chances are you won’t be successful in writing out the best one. Give yourself some time to brainstorm and write out a few drafts for those ideas and see which one feels the most authentic.

3. Space out the work.

Time management is a huge part of the college application process because, on top of applying to college, you are balancing your first semester of senior year. Some advice would be to use the summer of your junior year to brainstorm some of those Personal Statement essay ideas or maybe a resume with your academic information and credentials that you can send to teachers after you have asked them for letters of recommendation. By doing some of these things over the summer, one doesn’t feel the pressure of not knowing where to start when the fall rolls around. In doing this, you leave more time to focus on your supplemental essays as well and making sure your Personal Statement and overall application look the way you want it to.

4. Always ask for help.

Many parts of the process can make a student wonder whether or not they are on track and doing what needs to be done. One helpful resource available to students at Niles West is the College and Career Resource Center. Whether you have questions on specific parts of the Common App, submitting transcripts, or other questions, someone will be able to help you and see if you are on the right path. For essay help, the Lit Center, as well as an English teacher, can guide you with making sure your essay is comprehensive and that your grammar is in check before you submit your application. Another helpful resource is upperclassmen who have been through the process, as they have experience and can also answer the questions you may about the overall process, especially if they are attending a school you are interested in.

5. Remember to breathe.

The college application process is long and tiring, but that does not mean that you should be stressed during the process. In order to ensure you put out your best work, taking care of yourself is crucial. As mentioned previously, time management will save you stress and can make it, so you have the most time available to write any supplemental essays and complete the application. Remember to focus on your own work and not compare your path to others because everyone is on a different journey. Best of luck to the class of 2022!