Counselor: Juniors should start college applications

Getting a jump now reduces stress later, Mrs. Brandes says


Izzy Marasco

During the last week of the first semester, a junior English class meets in Loretto Hall.

Lilly Art, Reporter

The college search and application process can be time consuming and stressful, especially for seniors. 

But juniors can get ahead by starting the process now. 

Every graduate has to meet a list of requirements, including four years of math and English, at least three years of social studies, two years of a foreign language, and two years of fine arts electives. 

School counselor Mrs. Beth Brandes said that one way to increase one’s chances of getting into a good college is taking more than the minimum required number of foreign language, fine arts, or elective classes. She said, “This gives students a little bit of everything and gives them a sample of something that they may enjoy, or that will enhance their overall educational experience.” 

One of the most tedious tasks that students fill out when applying for colleges is filling out applications. Many colleges will accept the common application that all students fill out. There are several areas of common application. One is your profile, where you fill out things like your name, address, phone number, email, your birthday, your gender and more. Other areas will ask about your family’s education history, your test scores and many other items that are important for colleges to know about you. 

Some colleges are not a part of the common application group, and students will have to fill out an entirely different application. Others use a common application, but require additional things as part of their application. 

Senior Lauren Caldwell completed her common application early, and getting ahead helped her a lot. She said, “The biggest advice I can give students is to work ahead on your application so that when the chaos of academics, athletics and application deadlines begin, you are prepared to complete your application while still being able to enjoy your senior year and all of its unforgettable experiences.”

Another important area of the application process includes college essays. Some students write one essay, and others may write multiple ones. In order to feel less overwhelmed as a senior, it is important for juniors to start thinking about what they want to write about. Caldwell took a composition class her sophomore year and was able to complete her essay. She said, “I revised and edited my essay from my sophomore year to my final copy, but having a solid foundation facilitated an easier process when juggling other essays from institutional applications.”

Over the years, test scores have become less important in getting into college. Recently, colleges have made it optional for students to submit test scores. However, Cathedral still recommends that all students take at least one SAT and ACT. Brandes said, “Although many more (schools) have switched to being permanently optional, it is still not all inclusive where everybody is.” She said that students need to have these test scores because they never know what schools, scholarships or programs they are going to apply to.

Doing well on the SAT and ACT tests can significantly increase one’s chances of getting into their top school choices. Caldwell shares that good test scores are key to the application process. She said that Khan Academy, practice texts and a tutor can greatly increase your preparation and performance for the SAT and ACT. 

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to colleges that it can be hard to begin narrowing your choices. Brandes said, “I don’t think it is ever too early to start.” She suggests visiting campuses as early as freshman year. This will help students to start asking themselves what kind of school they like best. Size, location, majors, internships and scholarships are just a few contributing factors when it comes to college. 

Both Brandes and Caldwell recommend using Naviance to help make college choices. There are features including detailed college searches, personality quizzes and career quizzes that can help guide students find schools that will meet their needs. All students are welcome to use these tools, but juniors should especially consider this. Brandes said, “The longer you put that off until senior year, the more difficult it is to thoroughly cover all of your options.”

Brandes said, “(Applying for colleges) can feel like a burden, especially when you wait until the very end. The more proactive a student is, the less stress they will have. Those who get a jumpstart on their common application and essay before senior year will be much better off.”