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Are College Admissions all they’re cracked up to be?

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College admission season is an extremely stressful time in any high school seniors life. They are questions of, “What if I can’t afford college?”, “What if my GPA isn’t high enough?”, “What if I completely bomb my SAT/ACT?”, and “What if i don’t get in?”. All of these questions seem to be swarming around seniors heads as they walk around campus.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy, writer for the CBS Money Watch, says in her article entitled “Latest Trends in College Admissions: 15 Things You Should Know”, that about 20.4 million students are enrolled in college and that number is said to rise up to the peak of 23 million by the year 2020, showing the increasing interest and demand for college degrees in the workplace.

In contrast to this, O’Shaughnessy also says that while the interest in college has increased, “The number of high school graduates peaked in 2008 at 3.3 million”. This seems to be almost opposite with the swell of college applications that flow through the admissions doors.

How does this relate to college admittance? O’Shaughnessy’s research shows that the acceptance rate of colleges has drastically plummeted since 2001. The average acceptance rate was 71% back then, now it is an average of 65.5%.

Revolving the same research, O’Shaughnessy also says, “Seventy-three percent of colleges and universities in 2010 experienced an increase in applications from the previous year”. So, as the college admission process gets harder, students seem more apt to apply.

The workplace has become so competitive that college diplomas are worth more than they ever were years ago. It has become so valuable, that on average, one out of four students submitted seven or more college applications during their entrance process.

With this statistic, it is a prominent belief that college admissions are completely unfair to the thousands of applicants each year. But, the more that people are educated about the admission process, the more clear it becomes.

So, while this increasing stressor is travelling about high school campuses, counsellors and teachers can always help the seniors to feel a bit better.

Mrs. Scribner, a counsellor at Serrano High School, has some bits of advice for handling this frightening and exciting time in a seniors life. She told me that her best piece of advice is, “Don’t, don’t, don’t procrastinate. Start soon!”.

Scribner also states that the admission process is just so new to the seniors that it can be way overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be as paralyzing as most students make it out to be. She also told me that while most students tend to focus on the UC system for their college routes, there are definitely more great options to choose from.

What are your dreams for college? It seems that a lot of students have the same dream colleges as you. So, how do you distinguish yourself from the thousands of applicants?

The top five most popular dream schools for parents, according to the Princeton Review, are totaling at, respectively, at Stanford University at the top, Harvard College, Princeton University, Yale University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology closing out their average top five.

With that in mind, the top five most popular dream colleges for students, according to the Princeton Review, are rounding in, respectively, at Stanford University at the top, Harvard College, New York University, Columbia University, and University of California – Los Angeles closing out the top five.

Now knowing that these schools are the top five dream schools of many high school seniors and parents in the country, how do the chances look for you?

There are definitely students on our campus that get into their top tier schools. While this might be a dream for some, other kids dream schools may be less prominent. There are other options besides the cream of the crop schools.

With the amount of kids applying for colleges going up, some students may see the admission process as unfair or skewed in some way. Scribner says, “I know that there are times that it doesn’t seem fair because kids that look like they should get in don’t, but when you look at the big picture, it is a little bit easier to understand”.

On that note, Scribner backs up her previous statement with an example. She describes the admissions process for the number two school in our country, University of California – Los Angeles. Estimating that they get around 90,000 applicants each admission season, she states that they can only take around 5,000.

That acceptance rate can send anyone’s head spinning. With this information, it is hard not to see that college admissions really are just a numbers game.

So, how can you set yourself apart from the other 89,999 students applying to the same top tier college?

Your SAT/ACT scores and financial aid packages are definitely a factor for defining freshman applicants in the eye of colleges. While they are important, they aren’t the definition of your whole college acceptance chances.

According to Great Value Colleges, the average freshman financial aid package is $24, 448, but there are of course schools that have higher and lower rates. Some schools are even willing to meet 100% of your financial needs. You just have to be willing to do some research.

Scholarships are set up for all different types of students and families. As Mrs. Scribner says, “There are scholarships that are set up for specific subgroups of our population”, as she gives information on the financial benefits out there.

Another option is to start at a junior college, such as VVC. Mr. Piercy, a teacher here at Serrano and at VVC, says, “The CSU’s and USC’s are in high demand. Their admission process is driven by lawsuits”. So, he personally encourages students, if their major allows, to start at a junior college.

The college route that has been expected of you as a student probably feels like it is set in stone, but there are other options out there.

The college route that has been expected of you as a student probably feels like it is set in stone, but there are other options out there.

By starting at a junior college, you eliminate the stress of wondering if you will be accepted or not. There is no screening of your application when you attend a junior college.

Piercy also states that if you start at a junior college, you are almost guaranteed a spot in the Cal State colleges as long as you have kept a 3.0 GPA or higher. So, you can start with a junior college, save some money and keep your grades up, and then transfer to a Cal State college quite easily.

He also shared with me that if you take this route, the Cal State schools don’t even require you to take the SAT/ACT to get admitted. You go into the Cal State school as a junior, and continue on.

If you choose to go the traditional route, there is information you need regarding your SAT/ACT scores. According to Valerie Strauss, in her article entitled “Study: High school grades best predictor of college success — not SAT/ACT scores”, she states that when colleges didn’t require SAT/ACT scores, there was only a few tenths of a point difference between the GPAs of those teens who submitted scores and those who didn’t.

Strauss stresses that while the scores are valuable, they aren’t your killer when applying to some colleges. If you are interested in colleges that don’t require scores, as long as you keep that GPA up, you have nothing to worry about with your acceptance to those colleges.

As you prepare to send out these applications, Mrs. Wallace, an English teacher here at Serrano, suggests to make sure that your essay and/or letter is to the highest quality it can be. Colleges don’t get to see you in person or how you work in person. All they get to see is the paper you, so make yourself look as great as you can!

Wallace also suggests that you include some adversity that you have overcome in your life. If colleges can see that you have defeated an obstacle in life, they will see how strong you are and will be more tempted to say yes.

As these application deadlines come up, make sure you are prepared! Mrs. Scribner also stressed to me that the counsellors here at Serrano want to make the admission process as simple as they can for you. She says, “Take advantage of the help we offer! We do the after school workshops starting in late October”.

My advice to any student applying to colleges this year is to ask for help! Any new information or advice you can get will help you in more ways than one. Talk to others who have gone through the same process, such as teachers, siblings, or even your parents.

College is the bridge to the next chapter in your life. Make the buildup to your admission exciting, so you can be even more proud when that acceptance letter shows up at your house.

 

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The student news site of Serrano High School
Are College Admissions all they’re cracked up to be?