The college process decoded


by Joshua Gu, staff writer

College applications are what many high school students view as the final, toughest obstacle they must overcome to reach their gain preferred colleges. is a website that provides the Common App, an undergraduate college admission application. Four hundred-fifty six colleges in 46 states and five countries use the Common App in order to encourage unbiased acceptance.

Despite its simple premise, the Common App can raise many questions. Here are a few stratagems and tips that can help smooth the process of college admissions.

Procrastination is the easiest mistake for college bound students to make.

Most students do the majority of their application work in the fall of their senior year; but getting started the summer before allows a student to focus on editing and finishing the application process during the fall.

“We always have a lot of problems when students put off doing their applications,” said counselor Bev Hall. “There’s been a significant rise in students that need letters of recommendation, and if someone asks us to write one at the last minute, it’s not going be our best.”

Senior Tommy Camenzind also believes starting early can be very beneficial.

“The best thing a student can do is to start early,” said Camenzind.

The advent of online applications has made it easier to apply to colleges, but students can make the mistake of notifying their counselors too late.

Abstaining from alerting them can lead to a delay in sending high school transcripts and letters of recommendation. Applications can be marked as incomplete if counselor don’t follow up with the colleges promptly.

“It’s important to keep your counselor informed because they know the process of college applications better than anyone else,” said senior Erica Tsai.

If students want to apply for their first choice colleges earlier, they can  use early action or early admission applications, which are usually due in November.

Sometimes, students that apply early have a better chance of admission than they would applying regularly. Students will know whether the schools accepted them as early as December or January.

“There’s always a lingering doubt that comes with the wait for a college’s response to the application,” said senior Brian Cox. “So, there’s certainly less stress if a student applies for early decision or early action.”

It is important to note that early decision plans, as opposed to early action plans, are binding and students can only apply to one college for early decision. But for early action plans, students can apply to several colleges and attending is not mandatory.

“Students applying for early action should only apply to one or two schools that they would want to go to,” said Hall. “For early decision, students can only apply to one school, but very few schools still accept early decision applications as they’re becoming more and more outdated.”

SAT and ACT tests are another important aspect of the college application. Almost all colleges accept SAT and ACT scores.

“The ACT has a science portion, so for students that are better in terms of academics rather than reasoning, taking this test instead of the SAT could be better for them,” said counselor Michelle Sampson. “But if students are better at reasoning and deduction, the SAT will probably be a better fit.”

A common question is how many times students should take the SAT or ACT. There isn’t a concrete answer, but according to students statistically do better if they take it once in spring of their junior year and again in the fall.

Although Facebook profiles don’t hold as much weight as factors like GPA and extracurricular activities, they could be an important tiebreaker between equally appealing students.

According to a 2011 Kaplan survey of college admissions officers, 85 percent of officers from 359 top schools in America admitted to using Facebook to recruit students.

Pictures and posts of underage drinking or drug use can shed a negative light on students, while ones showing students making a positive impact on their community can work favorably.

“Students should just make sure that everything on their profile is appropriate or at least private,” said Tu.

Senioritis can be fatal. Second semester seniors are notorious for lacking motivation in, as many think that colleges don’t care about senior year grades.

But all high schools send a mid-year transcript to the colleges that a student has applied to. Colleges expect students to maintain the same effort as they did in previous years.

Acceptance letters can be rescinded if the college feels that students aren’t performing up to par, according to

“Senioritis has a basis, but it’s still important to maintain a good work ethic,” said Tsai.

A final step students can take is to limit parent involvement.

Admissions officers will likely notice if a student’s admissions essay seems uncharacteristic of a high school student.

“The student should write but they should also get feedback from their parents,“ said Camezind.