Seniors prepare for college applications

Senior+Marley+Wing+with+representative+Joe+Shields+from+Goucher+College+is+ready+to+get+advice+about+her+application.+Wing+used+the+information+provided+by+Walter+Johnson+resources+to+help+put+her+application+forward.

Courtesy of Josephine Meriot

Senior Marley Wing with representative Joe Shields from Goucher College is ready to get advice about her application. Wing used the information provided by Walter Johnson resources to help put her application forward.

As homework starts picking up and the pressure of college applications increases, the most stressful period has arrived for seniors. No matter what decision seniors are making for next year, the time to apply for colleges is in the next few months. For some seniors, they are the first child from their home applying to college, and have no one to give them advice.

A major portion of the college application process are the time consuming essays. Almost all schools require a personal essay in the common or coalition application. The challenge is deciding what to write about in order to differentiate yourself from others who may look similar on paper. While there are webinars and information meetings about how to write the best essay, seniors still need to make up their own ideas by themselves. Separately from the main essay, some schools have individual, short answer questions.

Requesting and checking in with teachers about recommendations is another responsibility that is put upon seniors even though the teachers have to do all the work. Seniors need to ask two of their teachers from previous high school years for a letter of recommendation to send to the colleges that they are applying to. Before asking teachers, seniors need to complete a form called a “brag sheet” on Naviance and send it to their teacher to inform them on what they are doing outside of school to help their teachers recommend the student. Although these questions seem short, they are not.

“I had underestimated how much time those [brag sheets] would take and I recommend getting them started before anything in the college process,” senior Maya Philips said.

Last year, there were changes to the college application due to the pandemic. Test optional movement through most schools is a significant change that has impacted many students. There is debate about the value of SATs and ACTs and most schools this year decided to carry on that test-optional policy, although the majority of students are still submitting scores. It is crucial that seniors check if their schools are test-optional if they are not going to submit a score. If not, they will need to book a date to take the test.

At WJ, counselors are very willing to answer questions and keep their seniors on track with all that is on their plates during this time of year. Emails are sent regularly from assigned counselors to schedule meetings and talk things out with a professional who can aid in the process. Similarly, College/Career Coordinator Gayle Evans continually sends emails about college meetings and overall reminders about deadlines

“My [college counselor] has been saving me… she answers my emails and was able to set up a meeting with me over the summer to go over and answer my questions… She also helped me change classes that I wanted for my application,” senior class Vice President Farah Aliabadi said.

In stressful times like these, seniors need time to focus on themselves and tune in to their mental health. As a result of getting overloaded with homework and additional college work, seniors become more susceptible to mental health issues.

“It is definitely a lot to handle. All the college application work along with my homework can really bury you,” senior Reagan Tyler said.

It’s essential for students to visit schools they want to attend as colleges take into consideration people who demonstrate interest in that school. The career center right across the counselors’ office offers meetings with representatives from schools which is a great opportunity to make the application stand out from those of other students applying to the same schools. Someone at WJ is always available to talk things out and help manage everything in this time crunch. WJ staff in general is receptive to help with time management and reduce or extend due dates for assignments. Although these times can be very challenging, WJ resources are available to help students improve their efficiency and receive that acceptance letter with the least possible stress.

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