The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

Original Art by Emily Dow
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Times Square traffic jam in New York City by joiseyshowaa on flickr
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Jackie and her brother, Daniel.
Smiling for Survivors
April 10, 2024

Advice from MSE Seniors on the College Application Process

Build good study habits, take 8 APs, practice piano or vocabulario del espanol or your free throws, work part-time, get enough sleep, be president of 3 clubs, volunteer at a hospital or a park, do your chores, stay out of trouble, conduct research and turn in your revised essay on time all so you’ll get into a good college. If you’re a junior and you feel like you should be doing everything and more, and are paralyzed by the fear that you’re not doing enough, you’re not alone. Last year around this time, the almost-graduates felt the same way. But they made it through, and so will we. In The Echo’s first ever Senior Advice Column, we sat down with a few seniors to talk about their experience applying to college, and the advice they have to leave us with. 

Every senior we talked to emphasized the importance of starting early. Obviously it’s easier said than done. You open the brag sheet and seize up, make excuses, convince yourself you have all the time in the world. But an early start, even if it’s not your best work, is better than a late one. Charlie Li, who will be attending Stony Brook in the fall, recommends “actually working on your brag sheet and not procrastinating like half the grade did.” Just take it from Mina Chioldi, “I didn’t do my brag sheet until fall of senior year and that’s the most stressed I’ve been in my entire life.” So, working even a little over the course of your junior summer, such as building a list of colleges and getting the brag sheet over with, is the way to go. If you really want to get ahead of the game, start writing supplements and the Common App essay. You will thank yourself later. 

While working on college applications during the summer is key, it is equally important to use your summer to do the things you love. Amrita Charturvedi, who will be attending Smith College, recommends “taking a lot of time to do the things you enjoy over the summer, and then you will be a lot better at writing about yourself because you’ll have a better understanding of who you are…I did a lot last summer so I had all these experiences to write about.” 

From the endless stream of emails, the millions of different rankings, and the brochures that come in stacks, it can be hard to figure out what you’re really looking for in a college. Mina Chioldi, who will be attending Tufts University, says it straight: “think about what you really want to do in college. You shouldn’t just choose a school based on how hard it is or if people will think you’re cool if you go there. I just don’t think it matters that much to show off to your peers. It’s gonna be your life.” When researching colleges, it can feel like the status and acceptance rate of a school is the most important factor. However, prestige really doesn’t matter all that much – which at MSE feels half-true. Take it from Rachel Aung: “Don’t see some schools as worse than others…Get it out of your head that some schools are more valuable than others or that the school you go to determines your value. It does not.” 

Exploring the campus, seeing current students and faculty in their element can help you to decide if a school is a good fit for you. Bridget Li, who’ll be attending MIT, went on a few tours the summer before senior year. She says, “I went to Cornell, I saw it and I was like, ‘Nope, I do not want to go to Cornell.’ I went to Binghamton and I was like, ‘okay, good safety.’ Then I went to MIT, in the middle of July, and I stepped foot on campus and was like, this is the school. This is the school I want to go to. ” As we embark on the college application process, we’re often looking for that immediate feeling of belonging when you step onto the campus of your dreams (as Bridget describes). But the truth is, this won’t happen for all of us. Maybe Charlie has the best attitude. He explained, “at the time I just thought, if I can get into one school I’ll be so happy.” Mina Chioldi echoed this sentiment, “When your expectations are so low, everything you get is something good.”

This wouldn’t be a complete article without talking about the piece that we are all dreading: the common app essay. It seems like an impossible feat and I can already see myself staring at a blank google doc, but the common app essay also introduces a unique opportunity to reflect and write in a way that is completely different from a standard English essay. “If you want to write a good college essay, you have to know how to talk about yourself in a way that isn’t generic. You don’t want to sound like just another smart kid because there’s always someone smarter than you. Being smart is not the best quality you have, you want to talk about something else,” Bridget advises. Writing is hard, and writing about yourself is even harder, so expect to write a lot of crappy things before you get to the good stuff. To quote Ed Sheeran, “writing is like a dirty tap in an old house, because you switch on a dirty tap and it just spits out bad water for about 10 minutes, and there’s just mud and grit and just all kinds of messiness coming out, and then it starts flowing clean water.”

As Mr. Klein says all the time, “kids at MSE don’t recognize their own greatness.” And while I’ll admit I cringe a little every time he says this, it certainly has an element of truth. If you’re thinking to yourself, ‘how am I supposed to fill out a brag sheet when I have nothing to brag about?’, you’re wrong! Applying to college, and writing supplements is not the time to be humble. It’s about advertising yourself and being confident in all the things you’ve done and the experiences you’ve had. “Don’t underestimate yourself! Don’t discount the types of schools you could get into. I had very low standards. I didn’t even think I could get into schools that were like a 30% acceptance rate. But then I realized, if I had applied to schools that were a little more selective, I could have gotten in. But I didn’t, so I will never know” Rachel explained. Although rejection is scary, it is much better than selling yourself short and wondering ‘what if’. Ultimately, it can never hurt to shoot your shot and at the end of the day, you have nothing to lose. 

The college admissions process is intimidating and while it can feel isolating at times, knowing your friends are there to support you along the way, whether it be with writing, editing, or just giving you a hug when you need it most, makes all the difference. We are going through this process together and we’ll come out the other end stronger, and closer. Next thing you know, we’ll be the ones giving advice.

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