Grace Greason: My busy road to college
It's mid-April, which means the last round of college admissions decisions were released just two weeks ago and students all across the country are tasked with deciding where we want to spend the next few years of our lives.
Though we might not yet feel like college students, our journeys to college are a result of years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. As a high school senior myself, I thought it would be interesting to examine the crazy and dynamic application process that brings us to our first college class. Because no two colleges — or applicants — are the same, the experience will be different for the 70 percent of high school seniors who will attend college this fall, but here's what it was like through my lens:
Application. Today's high school seniors can choose from nearly 700 colleges and universities using the Common Application, which consolidates a student's activities, essays, and recommendations into a single application that can be sent to up to 20 schools. Yet many other colleges have individualized the process; some schools use their own applications, while others have done away with mandatory testing and essays. During junior year, I began identifying colleges in which I was interested and made a list of their requirements to stay on track.
Timeline. We must also choose from several different ways to apply to college. Many schools offer early decision plans that allow students to commit to a college by December of their senior year, while others provide rolling admission deadlines throughout the year. Most of us know where we are accepted by early April, but some students are waitlisted at a college, which means they may be offered a spot in the early summer depending on the college's needs and class size.
Grades. I began piecing together my college application last summer, but my quest for my dream college really started in eighth grade, when I took a freshman-level math course. From that point on, all the grades I received affected my unweighted and weighted GPA (which gives extra points to honors and AP classes), as well as my class rank, which shows how I'm performing compared to my classmates.
Testing. Colleges vary widely when it comes to testing requirements, but most want to see either an ACT or SAT score, which measure students' abilities in reading, writing, and math. Many schools also encourage SAT IIs and AP Exams that test students' knowledge in specific subject areas such as U.S. History or Biology. It's also important for students to take the PSAT during October of their junior year; a high score could make them eligible for National Merit Scholarship awards. I took all of these tests (some multiple times), but many of my classmates didn't have to.
Essays. The Common Application allows students to construct a 650-word essay from one of five prompts that are released each February. Many colleges require supplemental essays, as well, so it's important to begin writing these as soon as possible.
Activities. The Common Application allows us to list ten extracurricular activities and five awards. Space is limited- each activity's description can only be about the length of a tweet- so the essays and "Additional Information" section were a great way for me to elaborate on my passions and involvement in the community.
Though the college application process can be overwhelming and exhausting at times, I tried to see it as the key that opened the door to the next chapter of my life. I wish each of my classmates luck as they too move forward in their journeys, wherever they may take them.