Advice from a Senior: College App Edition

Are you an underclassman confused about how to apply to college? No worries, I’ll teach you the ins and outs from a student perspective!

Intro and Outro courtesy of quickly, quickly


Hey everyone! I’m Nhi Huynh, a current senior at Silver Creek! I recently just finished college apps this January, so I figured I would share some advice with you all! When I was an underclassman, I also had a tough time understanding colleges, but I’ve done a lot of research so I hope I can help you all.

First, let me break down the type of colleges that exist. There’s community, public, private, and technical. Community colleges are nice – you go for 2 years and it’s a lot cheaper than other colleges. When you finish community college, you come out with an Associate’s Degree or you can transfer to a different four-year college to get your Bachelor’s! A lot of students choose it for the affordability and closeness of it and it’s a great option that shouldn’t be degraded!

Public and private universities are similar, except public unis are funded by the state government while private rely more on tuition and private donations. Private universities tend to be smaller and are pickier with who they choose, while public universities usually are bigger and have a larger acceptance rate! You get a Bachelor’s degree after this. Private and public universities also tend to be more expensive, but you get to take a lot of different classes. 

Finally, technical colleges! These are also great options that many people don’t talk about. With technical colleges, they prepare you for a certain career through classes that are geared towards that career specifically. They can also be shorter, taking up to two or four years. They’re also cheaper and you graduate with either a certificate, diploma, or an associate degree.

Source: Pinterest

Of course, there’s more than that too. You don’t immediately have to go to university if you feel you’re not ready. You can always take a gap year, which leaves you with a lot of free time. Most people use it to travel or to work more to have more money. You have a lot of options, so don’t feel limited to feeling like you have to go to college!

When you choose a type of college you want to apply to, you want to do your research on them! What do you specifically want from a college? Do you want a great sports team? A lot of clubs? Closeness to where you live? Whatever it is, consider it when you research every university you’re looking at. What helped me was making a list of colleges I wanted to apply to and listing all of its pros and cons, so I recommend you do it too!

Another thing to consider about colleges is if you can afford them. For example, out of state schools are going to be a lot more expensive than in-state schools! Most Silver Creek students stay in California as the tuition is cheaper (since we’re residents).  However, there are many ways to help get more money for college. This includes applying for scholarships and the FAFSA/CSS. There are many scholarship websites you can use, such as goingmerry.com, bold.org, and scholarships.com! The counselors also post a lot of scholarships on Schoolloop, so check that out too!! Try and apply for as many as you can because you never know if you can get some money!! Let me explain FAFSA and CSS too. The FAFSA is an application to apply for federal aid granted by the government, so apply to this one as soon as possible (although you have until June before you start college). It’ll also be good to apply for this with your parent’s tax statements on hand so you can look through it. For CSS, this is for private schools so apply to this if you’re doing private schools. This is Collegeboard’s financial aid application. In general, apply for these as soon as possible so you can get more money! They both open on October 1st.

While I’m at it, let me break down the different kinds of degrees too. There’s associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s degree, and doctorate’s. Associate’s you get after two years of college, while bachelor’s you get after four years of college. After you get one or the other degree, you are a graduate. If you want, you can continue your education to get a master’s degree, which can take up to 2 years. Then, you can even go on to get your doctorate’s degree, where you go into a Ph.D. program. This can take up to four to six years though, so it’s up to you to decide how much education you’d like!

Now that you know the type of degrees and colleges you want, let’s talk about the different applications you can submit to. The most well-known college applications are the Common App and the Coalition Application. These applications have a wide range of schools you can apply to all over the country and lets you easily submit from the same website. The Common App has more schools than the Coalition Application, however! The Coalition is more selective on the types of schools as they chose more schools dedicated to making it more affordable for students to attend. In California, there are also different applications for our public universities. For example, the UC has its portal to submit, as well as the CSU system. I recommend making an account when the applications first open so you can get started filling out the application. For UCS and the Common/Coalition App, they open in August. CSUs I believe open in October. Another nice application is Questbridge, which is used to help low-income, first-generation students applying for college get potential scholarships and be “matched” with a school to get their whole tuition covered! I recommend checking that out if you fulfill its requirements, it’s also a great application. It is however more thorough and will have earlier deadlines! I tried for Questbridge but didn’t make their program… it’s very selective. But if you qualify, please go for it! It’s an amazing opportunity. Check them out at questbridge.org.

I also want to mention that some prestigious schools have their own portal to submit to, which is kind of a pain since you have to go open a whole other account for it. For example, Georgetown University and Clemson University have their own portals. So just check carefully! 

Another option you have is to apply to universities abroad! I personally haven’t done a lot of research into this as I mainly applied to universities in the U.S, but if you’re seriously considering this option though, do a lot of research and make you really, really want this! For example, you want to check if your high school credits are transferable, if you can afford to go, and if you need a visa/green card to go. I recommend talking to their admissions counselor for more information! It’s a great opportunity to travel and experience university in a whole different country, but be careful and smart! It might also be more difficult to look into this because of the current pandemic, but it’s still a great option. 

Sources: Common Application/ Coalition Application/Questbridge Application

For each application, there are also different kinds of deadlines. You may have heard of early decision or early action, which means you submit your application earlier to a college of your choice. Early decision means that if you get accepted, you’re pretty much bound to that school, so only do early decisions at your favorite school. These are also taken into more consideration as those that apply for early decision show they care the most about this school. Early action is much more chill – it’s non-binding but it still means you’re gonna have to turn it in much earlier. Some schools also have rolling admissions, which means that you turn in through a period of time that’s given by the school. The earlier you submit, the faster you hear back from these colleges! Finally, regular decision is the final deadline for every single applicant! 

Alright! Now let me break down the application internally. There’s a lot of parts to the application, but don’t worry, It’s not too difficult to fill out! So inside the application, there will be sections about you. I’ll be using the Common App as an example for now.

Source: Common App 

As you can see here, there’s a profile section, a family section, an education section, testing, and more! These are pretty easy to fill out and I don’t think I have to explain them too much. For the family section, just ask your parents questions. For the education section, I recommend having your transcript on hand so you can fill out all the classes you took much easier, as well as an unofficial/official one to submit to the application. Most schools require it so make sure you have it!

One important aspect is the teacher recommendations, where you need to ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation. You want to choose a teacher who really knows you or is good for your specific major so choose carefully! For example, if you’re planning on majoring in History, you want to ask your History teacher or a teacher who works closely in that field. They’re busy people too, so ask them as soon as possible so they have more time to work on it! It can be difficult to ask them but don’t be afraid to. Just be respectful and courteous. It’s best to ask in person, but with the pandemic, it’s definitely not plausible to do them. So just shoot a nice email to them and wait for their response!

The activities and writing section is also a little harder to write. Activities require some writing, so you’ll have to explain all the extracurricular activities you did, why you did them, and how many hours you spent doing that extracurricular. Hopefully, you’ve been keeping track of all the activities you did! Some college applications limit the number of activities you can put, so choose the ones you really dedicated a lot of time too!

The most important section in my opinion is the writing one. It’s dreadful and painful honestly, having to write essays about yourself for multiple colleges. However, you can do this! You really have to write well so colleges can get a better idea of who you are. My best tips to tackle these would be to start on them as early as you can… it’s better to have something on the paper rather than nothing at all. This way you can at least edit it to be better or have somewhere to start. Common App questions can also be found on the Internet, so you can literally start whenever you feel like it. My next tip for these essays would be to reuse essays if you are submitting them to multiple colleges! Colleges might have similar questions so to save time, go ahead and reuse some essays if they fit the prompt well! You can also re-edit certain stories to fit prompts! Finally, I recommend reading it over multiple times and editing it. You want to show the best things about who you are, so dedicate a lot of time to writing these. Colleges want to know who you are and why they should accept you, so do your best! I also recommend getting your trusted friends or teachers to also read over your essays and give you feedback. They see things from a different perspective and can help you catch errors that you might’ve missed, so don’t be hesitant to ask!

When you finish everything, just hit submit and pay your application fee! It’s sad that you have to pay after all that hard work you did but you just have to. Try and check if you qualify for a waiver, but yeah otherwise you’ll have to pay up. After that though, you’re done!! Congrats!!

Overall, the college application process is very lengthy and tiring. Although I broke it down and made it seem easy, it is still really difficult. I definitely struggled a lot and my mental health went downhill during this process. So please take all the time you need and start as early as you can so you don’t die in the last two weeks filling everything out! I hope that this podcast is helpful and that you all feel less worried about the process. If you have any further questions, feel free to email me at huynhnhi0584@students.esuhsd.org or shoot me a DM on Instagram @ohdearnhi! No question is dumb so please feel free to ask away!! If you shoot me an email though, mention that it’s about College Apps in the subject line so I don’t accidentally miss it. 

I also want to leave off by saying, you are always good enough. Don’t let these colleges determine your self-worth as a person! If you get accepted or rejected, just know that you are still an amazing, accomplished person. Wherever you go, you will still do good things, so please don’t beat yourself up for not getting into a prestigious school. All that matters at the end of the day is that you tried your best. This was Advice from a Senior: College App Edition! I’m Nhi, and thank you for tuning in!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s