At the Heart of the College App Process: Who Are You?

Video, Photography and Written Feature by Alice C., Concordia Applied Journalism


“The college process is really unpredictable,” Jane F., a senior at Concordia and soon-to-be-alumnus expresses.


Amidst COVID-19, the college future for Concordia students seems to have become exponentially more difficult to divine. APAC events have been cancelled, concerts mothballed, and students as well as teachers are gradually becoming more accustomed to lessons over Zoom instead of live ones. Does this mean that the college application process is being remade as well?


The unshakable feeling of impending doom for college applications for juniors certainly seems consistent from year to year – and this year maybe even a little more so.


“I feel lost,” explains Concordia high school junior Ashley W. “Time is passing and I feel so unprepared for senior year. I am panicking!”


But maybe panic is unwarranted. Eight Concordia seniors have been more than happy to share what they’ve learned through the application process. And it may be enduring advice.


Mady C., the President of Concordia’s High School Student Council describes the college application process as undoubtedly “stressful.”


“Tiring,” is the word that Kelly W. settles on to portray her application journey. Lena H. adds stating, “I was going to say exhausting, but that’s the same thing.”


Still, the process is not entirely just devastation. Sam J’s eyes twinkle with exhilaration as he declares his progress to be “Exciting! Motivating! Self-reflecting!”


“Before I started writing apps, I thought that the most important aspect of my application was my scores, including the SAT and ACT. But now, my thought has changed,” mentions Winona Z., a senior at International School of Beijing.


With high school disrupted by COVID-19, a growing number of schools are waiving standardized testing requirements for 2021 applicants. Cornell University has suspended testing requirements and other schools including Williams, Amherst, Tufts, Northeastern, Boston University, Pomona, UCs and more have made their admissions test optional. Many juniors may fear that their lack of solid scores in standardized tests will negatively impact the outcome of their college results. Yet, out of the eight seniors interviewed, only one, Aaron Y., mention testing as the most important aspect of a college application. Even so, Aaron clarifies, “I think testing, GPA, and the essays are all equally important.”


Every single commenting senior, on the other hand, suggests that the essay portion is the most essential part of the application. Mady elaborates, “I think essays and rec letters [are most important], because everything else is very like…it [the score] is either like a number or something that’s kind of hard to define you.”


Since personal statements and supplemental essays are aspects of the application that can be controlled, Corey believes that it is in these aspects that you can reveal who you truly are.


Kelly says, “supplemental essays – I think a lot of them are very similar. You still have to think a lot about yourself when you’re writing those.”


“All the schools that I applied to had the Why essay,” Sam explains. “It’s really important to go to their website and read what their programs actually are and find something unique about it to talk about in the essay.”


To produce a college application at your fullest potential, Lena, an art student, urges would-be applicants to "take advantage of your counsellor’s meeting times and don’t be afraid to meet them when you need them. Your artwork and essays don’t have to be perfect - even a terrible idea is better than no idea,” she advises. “You won’t be happy with some of the stuff you make, and that’s okay, all you can do is your best.”


Corey prompts juniors to never lose their focus. He encourages them to “be yourselves in your essays, because that’s like the ultimate goal of the college process is to find the college that matches you the best.”


Sam agrees, enthusiastically stating, “I think my biggest tip to be yourself.”


Taking this to the extreme, Lena explains through an anecdote: “I put art that is not as good but I liked making, because I was like, if I go to your school, I’m going to do this and even if it looks terrible, I rather show you what I really like to make.”


With COVID-19 comparably placing a lot of time in the hands of students, juniors can take advantage of this opportunity to prepare for senior year. Corey strongly suggests that juniors “use it to start researching schools.”


Over half of the seniors polled resoundingly agree that the application process needs to “START EARLY.” Every year, graduating seniors endlessly tell upcoming seniors to start on their essays during the summer and find schools that they might potentially apply to.

“If you can think about when you want to get stuff done instead of kind of looking at all the deadlines later, that would be way more helpful,” Lena remarks.


Claire C., a senior at Concordia, proposes starting a project. “Since many summer programs have been postponed, I would suggest rising seniors start on a personal project over the summer,” she says. “For example, if you want to become a journalist, you could start an online blog or podcast.” She also advises students to, “follow what you love to do. Don’t try to force yourself to apply for a major just for the sake of satisfying your parents’ expectations. Your activities and extracurriculars should naturally lead you to what you will study.”


The college application is indeed unpredictable, Kelly explains, “Even though you may think, 'Oh, I don't qualify' or 'Oh, I do qualify,’ you still don't really know.” After all, however, the most important outcome for a college application is to find the perfect fit for you.


Esther K., a senior attending SAS Puxi, encourages sincerity. “If you are the person a university is looking for your application will stand out without you having to talk about some extraordinary topic,” she says. “Just write about what you're passionate about, and the university that notices your passion and talent will be the right place for you."


How to sum up the opinions of our 8 contributors? The application journey will not be all sunshine and sparkle and there will definitely be times where you feel worthless and abandoned. Claire offers this closing advice: "An application is just thirteen pages of who you are, so when things don't go the way you want it to, don't disparage yourself too much. That being said, make that thirteen pages of who you are the best as you can. Find your voice and present yourself in a way that you want colleges to see you.”

Alice C. is a student of Concordia Applied Journalism






Want to read more about the app process? See this related story.