How To: College Applications


Eliana Posin, Journalist

It is time, Juniors. You cannot run from it any longer. Your email inboxes are exploding with information emails, your parents are starting to get frantic, and your grades seem to be worth a million dollars per A. It is time to think about College. And how to apply to it.  


The one flawed thing about college is that students are thrown into the deep end of the application process without knowing anything about it (actually, there are many flawed things about college, but that is not the point). Parents of students find themselves spending thousands of dollars on college counselors to ensure a solid application and a better chance of getting into a prestigious college. However, if your parents don’t want to do that, I’m here to share my experience with applications and offer some of my own advice on the matter. Just for reference, I will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall, if that gives me any credibility. 


I started my application process a couple of weeks before the start of my senior year. Whether you are applying for UC’s or other schools via Common App, there are numerous information sections that you’re going to want to fill out early and get out of the way. As simple as those sections are, they are very tedious. There is not much more to say about the information sections, except for when stating extracurriculars, try to include everything you have done, even if it was very small. However, make sure to remain honest. 


The next sections of applications are the doozie, the essay sections. For UC’s you are required to write four 250-word essays, from 8 given prompts. A prime example of a prompt given by the UC application is, “Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.”

For my own UC essays, the one that answered the above prompt was about my time working as a lifeguard, and how I worked cohesively with my coworkers to save a life. My personal favorite essay was about my sport, rowing, and how it has shaped me as a person both on and off the water. 


However, the UC’s are most likely not the only school you will be applying to. Almost every school requires some kind of supplemental writing section, each with varying prompts to answer to. Luckily a lot of the prompts from different colleges are very similar, even if they are worded differently. Here is a supplemental essay prompt administered by the University of Southern California for the 2021-2022 school year, “USC faculty place an emphasis on interdisciplinary academic opportunities. Describe something outside of your intended academic focus about which you are interested in learning.” This is basically another way of asking, what are your extracurriculars? (an extremely common prompt among the majority of colleges). The best way to save time and energy during the strenuous essay section -especially if you are applying to a large number of colleges- is to preview all of the essays prompts you will need to answer, categorize them by similarity, and write one essay per “prompt category” that you will be able to reuse and tweak to fit each individual prompt beneficially. 


It is universally known that in order to create a strong application, you will need to do your research. Do not take this lightly, researching the colleges you’re applying to is very important. That being said, hours upon hours of research is not always necessary. There are many websites that help guide the research process and provide information on what exactly you want to major in, sometimes specific to each school. What I did regarding research included spending about 15 minutes per school reading all about my major, the professors, the mission statement (this is important!!), and all of the requirements. Keeping an excel sheet or google sheets document with specific notes on each school and what they offer will be very helpful when writing essays, and then later ultimately deciding on where you want to go. 


The most important part of the application process is allowing your true self to shine through. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being honest and being yourself! Each person is unique and talented in their own ways and college applications are a great way to showcase that.  Through this process, don’t underestimate yourself, keep in mind that each college will appreciate what you have to offer. 


I want to wish all of the Junior’s good luck with college applications next year, but for now, finish off your junior year strong and enjoy the summer! 

UC Prompt from UC application

USC Prompt from USC application via Common App