Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Niccolo D'Agruma

College is an opportunity, a learning paradise, and a cocoon of growth and development.
Still, the journey to this “paradise” is stricken by nightmare after nightmare.
The college admissions process is grim.
Every step brings new waves of anxiety, stress, uncertainty, and misunderstanding.
Overwhelmed by all the options and the weight of each choice and decision, too many bright students are pressured by the process and forget who they are, not staying true to themselves.
“I was only able to apply early decision. When I accepted, I was never going to be able to be 100% certain that I would love a school,” said senior Katherine Ball.
The pressure of the commitment and the fast-paced timeline for submissions pushes many prospective “early decision” applicants away due to the legally binding nature of early decisions.
Another challenge that prevents many applicants from not making an early decision is not knowing what would make the best fit and having multiple appealing options.
There are many key lessons to learn about how to approach the process, ensuring students grasp what they truly want.
“Frontload, frontload, frontload,” said senior Luca D’Agruma, “If you don’t start building a solid, balanced list early, you’re just not going to be prepared when senior fall comes around.”
Students who do significant research early are rewarded later because they have a better college list and a better understanding of who they are and what they want for their future.
“I researched schools throughout junior year,” said Katherine. “There was one school that I consistently liked no matter how many new schools I looked at.”
Weighing every option and every choice and thinking through and evaluating your decision-making process early on is critical to reducing the second-guessing that plagues students who wait too late and procrastinate.
“I always recommend trusting your gut no matter what, but I also think you have to approach the process rationally with data,” said Luca. ”The Common Data Set is the single most useful tool you have. Using it alongside Laguna’s SCOIR data plots is invaluable in helping you understand your chances. I built out a spreadsheet comparing every relevant piece of data from every college in my list.”
That data can be used to help facilitate understanding and give a greater context for a student of a school.
As for the Common Application and the execution of actually applying, leading with who you are is essential. When approaching applying, viewing the endless stream of essays as a way of putting yourself on display is much more effective than trying to become what you think the college’s ideal applicant is.
“I wish I had known how little space applicants are given to show their personality,” said Katherine, “It takes work to fit yourself into an essay or two and some descriptions of your extracurriculars.”
With only so many words you can write, and only so many minutes an admissions officer has to read your application, it’s important to make every last word count. Be real, be you.
Success does not come from putting on a show but from letting your true colors glow, focusing your application on accurately reflecting and advocating for yourself is essential.
“I think being genuine is really important. Colleges read thousands upon thousands of applications. Everyone is exaggerating their accomplishments or playing up parts of themselves that they don’t actually care about. There are very few people who can be vulnerable in their application,” said Luca. “ Developing an authentic narrative to showcase in an application is much stronger at differentiating yourself than anything else. If you can do that, there’s no way you won’t end up in the right place.”