The College Application Process


Sophia Finn

The majority of Brookfield East seniors will attend a 4-year college. November 1st is the Early Action and Early Decision deadline for a great many of the colleges our senior Spartans have their eyes on – and they’re feeling the pressure.

However, it’s never too early for younger students to begin preparing for the college application process. 

Try to understand what makes you tick as a successful student

— Meghan McArdle

The Common Application is a one-stop-shop for applications, and worth getting familiar with no matter what your grade. This website allows you to fill out some basic information and your personal essay for several colleges at once.

Many of the college admissions officers that I’ve spoken to have observed that the application essays have become worse in recent years. One study by Vanderbilt University found that the declining writing ability of students could be linked to English class curriculums increasingly teaching to the test at the expense of writing assignments.

Basically, high schoolers hardly practice writing and revising one essay for weeks, so when college essays roll around, they fall short of expectations.

To avoid this, start your essays early! There are plenty of sources of inspiration online. Meghan McArdle (12) recommends “reading the Tufts and Johns Hopkins websites. They post some past essays by accepted students.”

It also helps to ask your family members and teachers to read your essays. Aside from doing this to be sure that all your grammar is correct, you should ask the question “Does this essay sound like me?”

The admissions officer reading your application will probably be able to tell if your essay is truly authentic or if you just wrote what you thought they wanted to hear. It’s essential to let your unique voice shine through to show a part of yourself that your standardized testing score, GPA and extracurricular list can’t.

“I hear that a lot of the time admissions decisions do come down to what you say in the common app essay,” says McArdle, “because it’ll show things like if you would be a good roommate and classmate, or how well you would do well in that school’s culture.”

Another thing that Spartans can do to start their application early is pretty obvious – be considerate of your teachers.

Colleges will typically require 1-3 letters of recommendation. You can’t expect your teachers to be able to write a strong letter of recommendation for you just because they gave you a high grade. McArdle advises underclassmen and juniors to “participate in class, be a helpful classmate and let your teacher get to know you. Give them something to write about.”

The college application process seems like a race to meet a deadline, but the race may start earlier than you think. In addition to keeping your grades up and being an active member of your clubs, McArdle recommends to “try to understand what makes you tick as a successful student”.

Then turn that into an amazing essay, and let your teachers turn it into an amazing letter of recommendation.