SHS students discuss the importance of college applications, and more importantly, how to do them well. Read more to find out!

Jenna Katz

SHS students discuss the importance of college applications, and more importantly, how to do them well. Read more to find out!

Roshan Uy, Reporter

Getting into college can be a difficult pursuit. Whether that entails earning outstanding grades, getting involved in multiple and impressive extracurriculars, or writing a unique college essay, the stress that comes along with applying to colleges is bound to be overwhelming. 

However, prospective college students don’t have to worry so much. In the age we live in today, it is easy to find guides online that aid students in their application process. This article is one that will provide tips aimed to guide SHS students in their preparation to get into the school of their dreams.


Tip 1: Choosing Extracurriculars and Classes

The first and most important tip is to relax. Don’t get involved in hundreds of extracurriculars or classes that you don’t even like. Pursue your passion and interests instead, and don’t feel pressured to undergo an extreme amount of stress just because the people around you are doing so.

Take it from Peter Kyriacou, a senior and a prominent member of LINK club: “I feel like people don’t really consider all the options that they have … there’s a lot of clubs in this campus that people don’t really take opportunity of, like for every interest.” Kyriacou also mentions that “you can’t do something just because it would look good on your resume; you kinda need to make your resume based on your interests, and it will also look good.”

IB senior Roy Chen, who is the captain of the Debate club and Neuroscience club, also suggests that “if there’s any club in the freshman year that you’re interested in, just give it a go; if you’re still in your lower grade levels, you don’t have to commit to any club. You just have to take a look at it and … as you grow older, you can decide on which clubs you want to actually spend your time in, then focus on those clubs exclusively.”

Colleges understand that the applicants are human- young teenagers who love different things and have different goals in life. Even Ivy League universities, universities notorious for high student GPAs, encourage their applicants to showcase their interests through the activities and classes they partake in. You should shine as a unique individual. If you don’t know what you want to do yet, freshman year is the best time to explore your options and see what suits you and what does not. Try to join different clubs and enroll in classes that seem interesting to you, even if it isn’t an AP class. Remember, an A still counts higher in a fun and enriching honors class than a B in a stressful AP class that’s not interesting to you at all.

However, if you’re an upperclassman and you think that everything is too late, don’t worry; it’s not. You can still join different clubs this year that are within your interests, and classes don’t exclusively have to be at Seminole High School (SHS). There are various, fun classes online and outside of class which you can enroll in, some of which can boost your GPA. Extracurriculars don’t have to be exclusive to the school either. Volunteering outside of school and developing fun projects can be included in your resume. 


Tip 2: Demonstrating Course Rigor 

On paper, your academic record is one of the most vital aspects of the overall application. It is one of the first things admission officers look at when assessing an applicant; they want to know if the student is prepared to undertake the stress of being a college student. 

College is undoubtedly going to be stressful, so without any preparation from dual enrollment classes, honors classes, or AP/IB classes, the prospective college student might not have as much preparation as they could have gotten if they had chosen to take these classes.

In the words of Aliana Guerre, a Health Academy senior, “students should take classes that challenge them in order to show … colleges that they are driven and push themselves.” 

A high GPA, which can be boosted by taking honors and AP/IB classes, also shows hard work, responsibility, and dedication, which are qualities that are important in a college student. It shows that you are willing to challenge yourself as you take on demanding classes, and it also shows that you perform well despite their rigor. Your high grades can also compensate for an SAT or ACT score that is not as high as you want it to be.  

Then again, a high GPA is not the only indicator of hard work. Familial duties and work responsibilities can inhibit the student from getting good grades, but that doesn’t mean that the student is any less hardworking and intelligent. Hard work can also be demonstrated through work experience and familial duties. If you think it’s necessary, you can explain your circumstances in your application. Most colleges are understanding.


Tip 3: On Standardized Testing

Recently, the emphasis on standardized testing has decreased compared to previous years. Before, most colleges required the applicant to include their ACT or SAT score in their application. Now, however, neither are required for most colleges. Many colleges have opted to become test-optional, recognizing that test scores do not fully indicate a student’s intelligence.

And they do not. Health Academy senior Bishara Matin insightfully states that “[standardized testing] should be improved because it’s memorization of the same skills over and over. It should be more flexible and shouldn’t determine your level of educational placement.” 

Intelligence can be showcased in different ways, so if you can show that through your GPA, awards, extracurriculars, portfolio, or essays, then you can focus on emphasizing them instead. 

However, if you have the opportunity, it is highly recommended that you still take the standardized tests, especially if you’re applying to a college in Florida. Unlike other states, many universities in Florida still require test scores. High test scores also provide you with opportunities for merit scholarships and Bright Futures, a famous Florida student scholarship program. A high test score also helps you stand out among other applicants, which is beneficial as college is progressively becoming more difficult to get into.

When choosing between taking the SAT or ACT, it is generally recommended to take both for at least your first try. SHS offers both tests for free, so make sure to take it and see which test suits you the most. Generally, students who are good at reading comprehension do well on the ACT, while students who are good at math do well on the SAT. This is not definite, however, and it depends from person to person.

Taking the SAT or ACT early in high school will also help you in your junior and senior years. If you know your scores early on, then you will have more time to practice and improve your scores. After all, you can always retake the SAT and ACT.


Tip 4: Composing College Essays

Lastly, your CommonApp essay, personal statements, and supplemental essays play an important role in showing who you are as an individual. In your senior year, your classes, grades, and extracurriculars may be out of your control already. However, you have full control of what you write for your supplementals and essays.

Leaving a good impression on admission officers makes you stand out among other applicants, so it is recommended that you take time in writing these essays. A tip would be to start writing your college essay over the summer, have a teacher or your counselor read it, and revise it. The first draft is most often not as good at its final counterpart. Don’t stress!

Amanda Jayakody, an IB senior and vice president of HOSA agrees: “[Students should] start early and make sure to have people review your college essay as much as possible. That way it will be perfect!”

The CommonApp essay can seem intimidating. A compelling essay might be difficult to accomplish, especially when you struggle to think of an idea. There are many things that can be discussed regarding college essays, but a general rule is to avoid portraying yourself as a bad person, no matter how compelling your topic is. Talk about yourself, not your much more impressive grandfather. Do not discuss your grades or academic prowess either! Discuss something not mentioned in your transcript. Remember that the primary point of these essays is to show who you are as an individual, so don’t be afraid to use your voice and display the unique aspects of your personality. 


Tip 5: Scholarships, Letters of Recommendation, and Other Things

When actually applying to colleges in your senior year, there are a lot of things not yet covered. For instance, determining which college to go to, asking for letters of recommendation, and finding scholarships are all important in the application process, but none are explicitly mentioned until senior year. However, the tips listed above are generally what’s considered to be the most essential during your first years of high school.

At the end of the day, college isn’t the only way to guarantee a good future. There are always other options to this, such as opening a new business or working as an apprentice. Taking a gap year is also a valid option if you think it’s necessary. The most important thing is that you do what’s right for yourself, and depending on the circumstances, that is always different for everybody.