Hit or miss: Seniors navigate college applications


Julia Bychowski

Students gather in Ms. Spradling’s room during PIT. Senior workdays are held three times a week to assist seniors in their application process.

Julia Bychowski, Staff Reporter

‘What is an impactful event that you have experienced?’
Millions of eyes race over questions like this, drafting, editing and rewriting until they have crafted the perfect essay to send to the omnipresent eyes of their admissions officer. Welcome to the college admissions season.
As seniors race towards the high school finish line, many will first have to face submitting their college applications. For some, the tedious essays and resume building can feel like a brick wall blocking the college oasis.
“Essays suck,” senior Shayaan Shah said. “But I feel like it’s good because it allows you to really focus on what schools you want to apply to, and understand is it really worth it?”
Application essay questions differ depending on the college. For example, Texas A&M’s prompt for this year’s admissions is “tell us your story,” which is designed to be rather vague. Some schools, however, have more peculiar questions, like the University of Chicago’s question: “What advice would a wisdom tooth have?”
“The application process itself [is] kind of nerve wracking,” senior Dayna Ung said. “There’s so much pressure built up into that one essay.”
Millions of high school students around the U.S. apply to college each year, but the average acceptance rate for U.S. colleges is about 66%. For certain students aiming for Ivy League schools, such as Harvard or MIT, they’ll find themselves faced with a far lower acceptance rate of around 5-7%.
“I have a few safety schools in the northeast like Xavier and Hartford and then I have a few big shots like Berkeley, Cornell and Michigan,” senior Shayaan Shah said. “It’s a good [mix]. So, in case I don’t get into [my first choice] school, I can lay back on something.”
Seniors are applying to schools all over the country. According to a 2022 poll, students are applying all the way to the west coast at schools like UC San Diego and Washington, and here at home, to colleges like Texas A&M and Baylor University.
“The rigor of my classes has kind of increased so I have to do a lot of college work over the weekends,” senior Inaya Jabbar said. “And, rarely during school and weekdays do I get to really work on college applications.”
Senior workdays are held three days a week during PIT in Ms. Spradling’s room. During these sessions, seniors can get assistance on their applications from the multiple counselors there to help. Some students may even choose to apply during early-action, in order to get a head start on their work.
“I am trying to get everything done early for my own sake,” senior Inaya Jabbar said, “so I don’t have to worry about doing it at the same time as I’m doing schoolwork.”
Generally speaking, college applications have deadlines all the way to December or January, but students choosing to submit for early action, will usually submit by around mid November.
“I have a really good college advisor team, so they helped me come up with ideas,” Shah said. “It really has [been helpful]. If I [had to] do it by myself, I’d definitely be drowning.”
In order to lessen the workload and make the application process a smaller feat to accomplish, some students enlist the help of an applications coach or consultant. Unfortunately, this option isn’t available for everyone, as the average cost of a private consultant is around $200 per hour, or even up to around $6,000 for a package.
“I have an older sister who kind of went through the process,” Jabbar said. “She definitely helps me out and so does my dad. But as for the writing, that’s kind of on me.”
At the University of Texas at Austin, 20% of undergraduate students are first generation, meaning that they are the first person in their family to attend and graduate from college. For some students, however, their parents and siblings that have experience in the process have been a vital source of support.
“The idea of going to college is really exciting because it’s kind of a new chapter in your life,” Ung said. “And you’re able to explore new things and get a new sense of independence.”