The Scituation

Scituate High School's student newspaper

The Scituation

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College Tips and Tricks!

Looking for college admissions resources?
SHS senior Matt Carolan hopes to attend Cornell University in the fall. He recommends the CAPP podcast to all seniors.
Elizabeth Kurtz
SHS senior Matt Carolan hopes to attend Cornell University in the fall. He recommends the CAPP podcast to all seniors.

The college application process is in full swing for most SHS seniors, and completing SATs, applications, personal essays, and supplemental essays can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, many resources are available to students. Contrary to popular belief, getting into a good college can be done without breaking the bank. Free resources like podcasts, websites, and your school counselors are valuable and dependable tools that help make the process easier.

The New York Times, which is available free of charge to SHS students when they are on campus, has developed a “build-your-own college” database that helps users find their perfect fit college. This tool is helpful for students to narrow down their college choices based on cost, earnings after graduation, financial aid, athletics, location, size, and more. This helps students find the best school rather than relying on the traditional ranking system based mainly on reputation and graduation rates.

On the New York Times site, each ranking is unique based on the factors you put in, making a valuable list of schools for each student to look into and widen their options. This tool can help students find what they like in a school: location, size, Greek life, or an increasingly popular factor for those looking to escape the New England cold weather.

Scituate METCO Coordinator MarKaveus Barnes said he used this source to find his college in Massachusetts, UMass Dartmouth. When asked to share his advice for seniors, Barnes said, “Don’t limit yourself.”  He encouraged students to think outside the box, and when using the New York Times college finder, add some new states to your list!

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You don’t have to look far to find a helping hand at SHS. School counselors, including guidance counselor James Cooney, guide students through the application process. Cooney said students begin meeting with their counselor about the application process in the spring of their junior year. Meetings become more frequent in the fall of the student’s senior year. Cooney said the “frequency of meetings varies from student to student.” Students with older siblings typically have the process more under control and don’t need as much help.

More questions must be answered for those students who are the first in their families to go through the college admissions process. One question many students have is how many schools they should apply to. Cooney warned students against applying to too many schools, as it can get confusing, and the application fees can add up to hundreds–if not thousands–of dollars. Cooney commented, “Nine is the perfect amount. Three safeties, three targets, and three reaches.” Cooney encouraged students to contact their counselors when they have questions.

Aja Depass, an admissions officer from the University of Vermont, was happy to answer frequent questions about the college admissions process. According to Depass, it is essential to consider the cost when it comes to early decision and early action applications. Unfortunately, this year, FAFSA will not be available until December, meaning students applying in October, when many of the first rounds of early decision are due, will not know how much aid they are eligible to receive. Not knowing could make or break your ability to attend a school, so Depass suggests calling your school’s Student Financial Services.

Applying to college can feel like a dating game–with students constantly wondering what colleges want and how to look suitable on your application. Test scores are a great way to show off your smarts and abilities if you score well. If you do not score well, many schools are now test optional. But doesn’t it look worse not to submit scores? According to Depass, it does not.

While not every student must submit scores, most colleges require a personal essay. This is a time for you to show colleges who you are, and the best essays “showcase your unique voice and perspective,” according to Cooney. You can do this by writing about things that mean the most to you and how they have impacted your life. And, if you write about a sports injury, it better be the best essay ever written. Cooney says to steer away from topics that may be somewhat cliche. Even if they matter most to you, writing about what makes you stand out is better! Think about how you are different from others; this makes you unique and intriguing.

Our final tip was introduced by SHS senior Matthew Carolan, who recommended CAPP, the College Admission Process Podcast. This resource helps students go through the application process. In each episode, a different person is interviewed, including deans from colleges, graduated Ivy League students, and admissions officers, each giving new advice. One episode is released each week for students to tune into. Carolan’s biggest takeaway had to do with a commonly seen supplemental essay question: colleges want to know why you are specifically interested in their school. Instead of answering why you like the school, respond by telling schools “what you bring to them,” commented Carolan. There is something about that school that is special enough to apply, so including that perspective will make your essay unique to that school.