College application seminar (May 2022)

Notes by Derek Zhu
Board: Andy Gu, Jayden Lu, Rishabh Dave, Cordelia Li

What could you have done in high school to improve your application process?
⁃ research; internships, know colleges, email professors
⁃ be unique; doesn’t have to necessarily be centered around your major
⁃ branch out and join a lot of clubs
⁃ know what you’re good at, don’t spend too much time on all the clubs, it’s good to have a focus (a spike) that you’re good at and like it
⁃ be close with teachers; say hi and make connections, they’ll be writing recommendations

what did you do in hs that benefitted the application process the most?
⁃ writing-related activities, writing skills are crucial to how you present yourself
⁃ being able to speak/write what you did, knowing to and how to present yourself
⁃ extracurricular passions that you can truly write about and showcase about yourself to present to colleges
⁃ being creative and reading a lot, find creative, outstanding things to write about yourself
⁃ care about reading and writing to being able to present your outstanding.

what did you do to be the most productive and what did you do to not get distracted?
⁃ prioritize what is most important, which is usually college essays in senior year, figure out what works for you, and have a schedule
⁃ try to figure out when you’re most productive, and utilize that time
⁃ maximize your time at school, do hw in class, schedule your time
⁃ for college apps: schedule the time and deadlines to complete which parts of your college essays
⁃ be conscious of what you’re doing, if you’re being productive or if you’re wasting time

what kind of tools did you use that helped your productivity the most?
⁃ set time limits on all your apps to consciously limit your time on apps
⁃ use a planner for school and know all your deadlines and keep your assignments organized
⁃ be able to know how much time you spend on whatever you’re doing, and be able to control yourself and focus
⁃ form habits, recognize triggers in your environment and utilize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages; seeing certain things, thinking about your phone, etc
⁃ set different environments; work environments and relax environments, where you can only do what the environment is made for
⁃ going to a tea shop or library or whatever to work, and get your environment correct

what is the most important factor in selecting a school, and how do you know what decides between similar schools?
⁃ know what you want to do, and why you want to do it; understand what you truly want out of a school, and if you have something personally that you want out of the school, and characterize the school. (helps in writing the “why do i want to go to this college”)
⁃ only apply to the colleges that you truly want to go to; you can only write colleges that you want to go to.
⁃ speaking with other students and knowing the community, the atmosphere, and if you’ll really like the college
⁃ know what you want to use college for, and know what programs you like and what’s most right for you
⁃ after admission, go to entrance programs

when should you start writing college
⁃ plan ahead, and start on them before you start worrying about them.
⁃ time tables vary but take action when you feel you should
⁃ don’t lose motivation just because you think you have all the time in the world, work on it when you feel best to do it.
⁃ start BEFORE SUMMER ENDS; at least have your plans organized, but it is beneficial to have your common application essay draft finished
⁃ know which colleges you want to apply to and their deadlines
⁃ understand that having a good idea takes a long time
⁃ do not slack and procrastinate because you have time
⁃ understand that you’ll go through 3 or 4 drafts before you settle on one idea

what can you expect when going to a college interview and what do you do?
⁃ don’t be too stressed about when you get the interview. having or not having an interview doesn’t mean you will or won’t get in.
⁃ a very good interview won’t have an extremely good effect, but a terrible interview is game over.
⁃ be casual and formal when needed, have manners and all the common sense things
⁃ relax and be able to maintain a decent conversation
⁃ write a quick list of things that you wanted to cover and prepare what you want the interviewer to know about you, and know how to elaborate.
⁃ the main focus on interviews is to get to showcase your personality and don’t be afraid to brag about yourself.
⁃ remember to sign up for interviews, and some colleges have different deadlines for interviews
⁃ use the interview to know about the school; ask questions
⁃ use reddit to look through posts about colleges.

how important are college campus visits?
⁃ college visits are mainly for you to understand the college and its community and if you want to live there
⁃ don’t prioritize college visits before applications, but know that they may influence applications
⁃ some schools are very heavy on demonstration of interest, do talk to professors, maybe visit, and anything else. big colleges typically don’t care
⁃ try to find a student to act as your tour guide for a college.

what can high schoolers do if they have not discovered their passions?
⁃ make the most of your time in high school, go to clubs and be involved to find your people and your passion
⁃ explore what you might not be interested in, and explore humanities skills if you’re into stem
⁃ if you still hate everything after doing all the clubs and whatever, write about what you’re good at
⁃ participate in summer camps
⁃ sometimes you can be really good at something, but it may not appeal as a job. in that case, find things that met be related and explore jobs in those.
⁃ if you branch out too much, you might not have or lose sight of your spike.
⁃ keep an open mind and a controlled schedule.
⁃ use community service to find passions, like fps community problems or AYLUS

what was your favorite supplemental
essay prompt?
⁃ UChicago has very fun essay prompts
⁃ “if you want to teach a course in 30 seconds, what will you name it?”
⁃ “write a letter of your future roommate and showcase yourself,” you can be very creative in what you right to showcase yourself and your personality
⁃ try to make writing these essays fun
⁃ a huge problem can be to only answer the prompt, but think about relating it well.
⁃ have a theme in your application, your spike
⁃ unrelated answers to showcase personality are still important
⁃ try not to repeat things, and have all your answers be unique about you
⁃ you can either reuse something that you’ve already wrote, or it can be a fun prompt that you can use to showcase yourself

how many clubs should you be a part of, and how do you balance clubs and schoolwork?
⁃ a lot of clubs have a lot of competition, and don’t be scrambling for positions in too many
⁃ recommend to have 3 or 4 clubs that you’re super involved in
⁃ don’t sacrifice clubs for academics, and use them as a part of hs that can be fun and relax in.
⁃ don’t let clubs lower your grade, but if your gpa isn’t suffering, know that extracurricular activities are still important
⁃ set your goals early on
⁃ you don’t necessarily have to have a super good rating to get into a good school

how important is gpa and rating in comparison to extracurriculars?
⁃ not that important, none of the people admitted to MIT were in top 10
⁃ don’t let stress to gpa take attention away from what’s important
⁃ rank is not very important, and the toxic dawson ranking competition culture is not as important as challenging yourself.
⁃ have a good balance between ranking and other important things.
⁃ most colleges know that dawson has tight rankings

who did you get recommendation letters from, and when should you get them down?
⁃ by the end of junior year, talk to teachers and know who you want
⁃ always have two teachers, humanities and stem, and a counselors, maybe club sponsors, and choose teachers who know you best.
⁃ make good teacher connections
⁃ ask at least a month before end of junior year to teachers for recommendations.
⁃ ask club sponsors, coaches, or any other teachers if you know them well and likewise
⁃ have teachers that correspond to your major, unless that teacher is a bad teacher

how do ACT/SAT scores impact applications?
⁃ good scores do help, but if not, then you’ll have to present yourself in a different way.
⁃ colleges strive to evaluate students in different ways?

what transcript should you use+ can recently retired teachers work?
⁃ end of junior year transcript
⁃ if you can reach a retired teacher, then go for it, but don’t bank on it.

who and how should edit/criticize your essays?
⁃ have college connections or teachers
⁃ other students are pretty much useless
⁃ don’t over-edit
⁃ don’t look at essays after submitting