College admissions: The rundown

From left, seniors Zak Danz, Tessa Whitaker, and Finn Simpkins discuss where they will be attending school next year. —Ali Barlett

By Mackenzie Condon

Halfway through high school, the pressure intensifies as students look towards their futures and begin to navigate the college admissions process. Help with the college admissions process can be found in the guidance office, on the internet, with advice from bloggers, countless tip videos on Youtube, and phone apps that promise to find schools within reach at the touch of a button.

Information regarding a specific school’s admissions process other than their acceptance rate and average standardized test score is rather foggy and unpredictable. Sophomore Allyse Guyther looks toward the application process with uncertainty. “Some colleges preach the fact that they look for someone who has taken a specific area of study and been captivated by it. I’m not convinced that this is always the case when I try to imagine a consistent C student with the exception of one very strong subject being picked over a straight-A valedictorian.”

Helen Vendler is an English professor at Harvard University where she has also served on the admissions staff. She said, “In high school, try to find one area of the curriculum that you think you might want to study further. Or, if you don’t feel strongly about the interest of history, or the interest of biology, do some independent reading in an area that isn’t taught in your high school and see if that might appeal to you.”

Senior Sam Robinson said, “Knowing that colleges see so many different things that students have achieved or participated in, I really just involve myself in what I truly like doing. Sometimes there are ideas that one subject is more valuable than the other or this sport is the best to have on your resume, and whether that’s true or not I don’t know. So I just stick with what I find a personal joy in.”

Sophomore Christian Schmidt said, “If you’re someone who subsists on a certain thing, who lives for a sport, who waits every minute to dive into a poetry book, or goes to bed each night thinking about that one class you can’t wait for, then that is something that happens naturally. I like to spend my time singing and have most enjoyed being a Minnesinger and performing in the school plays. When thinking about whether colleges most value someone who is excellent at everything or a candidate who is beyond exceptional at one narrow field or activity, it is stressful because you don’t know what they want and you can’t control those types of assets or what you desire to do.”

Senior Pearl Vercruysse said, “I run on the cross country, and track and field teams. I just run for myself and my own ambitions but it does really help to have that balance of working hard in school but also having another part of life to work hard in.”

Knowing that a student has no jurisdiction over their natural aptitudes, or whether having many areas or few areas of success is more valuable, expressing their learned and practiced crafts in their application is valued indisputably. Brian O’Neil, an admissions graduate assistant at Franklin Pierce University, said, “If an individual has a unique talent or something very interesting that they do outside of school, mention it. We have had applicants who are black belts, have traveled parts of the world, are CPR/EMT certified and plenty more. The college application process is about explaining to universities why you think they should want you.”

Mr. O’Neil said, “Once a student has submitted all of their required materials, there is a particular order we review a file here at Franklin Pierce. The application usually comes first that includes a college essay, followed by transcripts, letters of recommendation, then SAT/ACT scores.”

The gray areas of whether cut-offs are prevalent in the admissions process of most colleges, or whether well-rounded applicants are picked over students that thrive in specific fields of study causes sophomore Louise McDonald to begin thinking about her approach to the application process early on in her high school career.

  She said, “You don’t know if your attributes make you more or less likely to be admitted. If you let assumptions of cutoffs and college values that you don’t know with utter and complete confidence keep you from applying, then you are the one getting rejected. I once overheard someone say that the first chance to getting into a certain school is applying, and personally I don’t think that could be more true.”