Every year, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) seniors complete college applications with the help of guidance counselors and teachers. The process is often lengthy and a learning experience for all. Seniors spoke to us about their experiences having just sent off the first wave of applications.
Students are first debriefed on their college application timeline by guidance counselors when they are freshmen. According to guidance director John Fiorito, the application can’t be started until students are juniors, so resume building is encouraged in the first two years. Students have an easier time once they start their applications if they have a sufficient record to work with from previous years.
When assisting in the college application process, Mr. Fiorito encounters a lot of kids who focus on the reputation of a school or how competitive they think it is. “The whole guidance department works hard to have kids dig deeper and try to find schools based on their love for the school community, what they’re getting out of the vibe of the student body, the location, and whether that school matches the interests that the student has,” he said.
Senior Molly Menton, who is applying to nursing programs at several schools in Massachusetts, narrowed her ‘choice schools’ based on the rigor of each school’s curriculum as well as other factors. “The three most important things to decide are if you want to be close to home or not, if you can actually afford to go to that school, and how good the school is for the major you want to study,” she said.
Like Molly, senior Mia Jeffers chose which schools to apply to based on majors she’s considering: forensic science, technology, or criminology. Her advice is to choose classes in high school that will serve you in college. “I have always been a science, math brain, so when I was a sophomore I doubled up in math, and this year I have doubled up in science,” she said.
Mia recognized that grades are not the only component of the application that colleges see, and that class levels are often more important. “We’ve been told since we were freshmen that rigor is one of the most important things that colleges look at,” she said. “So if you take a risk with an Advanced Placement (AP) class, it’s okay if you get a B in that class. That can look better than getting an A in an honors class.”
While the foundation of a college application is built on grades and test scores, the increasingly competitive nature of the selection process has driven kids to fill their resumes with a range of activities including community service, sports, and leadership positions at their school.
“I don’t think grades on their own are enough,” said senior Leo Neville, who plays two varsity sports, is student council president, and is involved in multiple clubs at the regional. “And a score on a test like the SATs is not going to be the most important thing on any application. It’ll always be a bonus, but not the main thing [colleges] look at.”
Despite multiple meetings with guidance counselors throughout their high school careers, many students were still surprised by the intensity brought on by the college application process. Both Molly and Leo admitted the process took longer than they expected.
Molly advised saving time by limiting the number of schools you are applying to. “You should save time by just focusing on the schools you definitely want to go to and apply to them first.”
Senior Eric Reubens strategically began his Common Application, which is a platform colleges use to allow students to submit their applications, in August before he had to turn his focus onto senior year work. “Definitely give yourself time,”he said. “You don’t want to cram in September or October. The summer is the best because you have some summer homework but you’re not overwhelmed by senior year.”