Photo by Alia Noll
Senior Garrett Fan has 26 college applications to fill out before Jan. 1.
“Half of the colleges are reach schools and the other half… I just do not have a positive outlook,” Fan said. “There is a point of subjectivity where an admissions counselor, the way they see your credentials and your experiences and resume, differs from how a different counselor at the same university would. It does make me scared.”
Plenty of seniors are in the same boat as Fan, whether they are applying to two colleges or 20. All of them will have the opportunity to get help on Oct. 13 during Fullerton’s fifth annual College Application and Success Day.
Seniors will spend the day rotating through stations to work on their college applications and essays, meet with college representatives, and receive information about graduation. Underclassmen will take the PSAT or ASVAB test during this time.
“I’m grateful that they’ve set aside this time for us to work on college apps because I’m going to need all the help I can get with writing and editing my essays,” Fan said.
Seniors applying to UC schools need to finish writing four 350-word personal insight essays. According to English teacher Kimberley Harris, students need to focus on what they want to say about themselves and not try to guess what the admissions committee wants to read.
“Just be yourself,” said Harris, who will be working with several seniors on Oct. 13. “Don’t overwrite or be overly academic in your writing. Show the committee you’re a human.”
UC Santa Barbara admissions reader Carol Mooney agrees. Mooney says that students shouldn’t try to overthink their UC Personal Insight Questions or dwell on the negative effects of distance learning through Zoom. Students should instead focus on what they accomplished during COVID.
“Some students started businesses, they did some outreach programs, they created masks, things like that,” Mooney said. “Anything that you did that shows how COVID impacted you is good, but if it didn’t have an impact on you then you’re definitely not going to write about it. You’re not going to try and make something up that didn’t affect you.”
Guidance counselor David McIntosh sees Oct. 13 as a way to prepare this year’s seniors whom he feels are less prepared than pre-pandemic years.
“I still think they know that they want to go to college, but I don’t think there are as many that know why or the direction to take,” McIntosh said. “I think more kids are going to choose the community college now just because they don’t know what they want to do, and it’s two years for free. I mean, I don’t care who it is, it has to be on your list of possibilities.”
Guidance technician Anali Conde explained that disseminating information from the College and Career Center has been difficult during the pandemic, but she’s hoping to build momentum this school year.
“Little by little, especially now that announcements are going out and especially for this day, I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot more seniors come in and asking questions about colleges, financial aid, even parents replying back to my emails and just wanting to follow up and set aside meetings to talk with them and their student,” Conde said.
“If the [Career Center] doors are open, you’re welcome to come in,” Conde said. “That means it’s time for you to just pop in, check in with me, and get help with anything I can help with.”
One difference for seniors this year is that universities are not requiring SAT scores. In fact, the Cal State schools and UC schools don’t even have a spot on the application to report SAT scores. According to Mooney, studies show that standardized test scores don’t actually indicate success.
“[Studies show] the best indicator of success in college is your high school transcript, what you did during high school, how you performed and what kind of classes you took. So more and more, the colleges are looking at that,” Mooney said.
Senior Kelcie Barbour says it’s probably a good idea to do away with the SAT.
“If you think about it, it’s just a three-hour test on one day, like you could have just had a bad morning, or maybe a bad week or maybe you’re just not a good test taker,” Barbour said. “I think it’s really good we’re moving away from SATs and ACTs because people have been crossed out, especially lower-income families because they don’t always have the resources to study for the tests. I think getting rid of them has opened the doors for a more diverse environment.”
Applying to a UC school requires several written responses. Private universities ask for a 650-word essay. However, Cal State schools aren’t using essays or SAT scores for admissions.
“It seems like it’s kind of the battle of the GPAs,” Barbour said. “It doesn’t really tell you about how they are as a person. Also, some people just get so lucky with grades.”
Mooney says anxious students should remember that students in the top 10 percent of their senior class are guaranteed admission to at least one UC school.
“Everybody’s biggest fear is ‘I’ll do it wrong, I won’t get accepted, I won’t get into college, I won’t be happy, I won’t be successful,’” Mooney said. “When in fact, what you have to find is the school that you’re going to be happy at. It has nothing to do with the US News and World Report [rankings] or which school has the best business school. What’s important to ask is, ‘Is this a place where you feel happy and where you want to be?’”
Sports editor Angella Yurek contributed to this story.