College Applications 101: The year of 2021

Nov. 18, 2021, 5:04 p.m. | By Isabelle Yang | 2 years, 7 months ago

An exploration into the nuances of college applications for the class of '22

Since the beginning of her senior year, Amelia Holton has been filling out application after application, writing essay after essay for her college applications. Amid the flurry of activity that comes with the beginning of a school year, she focuses on each section of her application, repeatedly revising her essay. Her situation is not unique - when autumn approaches, seniors from all around the country write their college essays as they take the first step towards their future with college applications.

It goes without saying that as deadlines near, the Blazers feel a rise in pressure from both family and peers to do well.

Holton was surprised by the amount of stress that college applications would pile on her. "[The college application process] is a lot more stressful than I was led to believe my other years in high school. So it definitely caught me a little bit off guard, but I've just been very stressed and overwhelmed with everything," Holton says.

It is no wonder that she feels overwhelmed. Not only do seniors have to decide which schools they want to apply to, but they also have to write essays, fill out applications, and request teacher recommendations and transcripts. 

A Blazer works on their college application. Photo courtesy of Mollie Block.

Compounded onto the usual application process is a challenge unique for this year's seniors: their virtual junior year. The virtual school year caused them to miss out on opportunities to actively engage in class and to meet with counselors during their junior year, making it notably difficult for counselors and teachers to write recommendations.

Holton remarks that being online created difficulties that her predecessors didn't have. "Just the fact that my junior year was online and that we weren't in school to access the counselors and to speak to them personally has made it that much more difficult to get to know the process," Holton says. 

This disengagement also applies to Blazers' relationship with their teachers. Senior Brittany Nolasco notes that because of the virtual school year, she didn't have the opportunity to build a relationship with her teachers. "Last year I had these teachers and I knew them for the whole year, but they didn't know me [because] they had their cameras on and we didn't really have cameras on, " Nolasco says.

Donna Whitney, who teaches AP Language and Composition as well as Honors 12 English, confirms the disconnect between students and teachers as a result of virtual schooling. She feels as if students don't take into account the relationship they had with the teacher, but instead focus on locking in recommendations, creating a disconnect. "It's like, 'I need to lock down my English teacher to get that recommendation,' not really [realizing] that [they] didn't necessarily engage. It is the fact that 'I locked it down and I have it in the bag,' as opposed to 'This teacher has some good things to write about me,'" Whitney says.

A student's relationship with their teachers and behavior in class reflects how they might engage with their college professors and their habits as a student, which is why recommendation letters form an integral part of a college application. Teachers and counselors advise that Blazers ask for recommendations around the end of junior year, but there are always some who ask towards the beginning of their senior year.

Carmen Salazar, the college and career counselor, emphasizes the advantage of asking early. "When we're starting that process [we say that] they want to go ahead and ask their teachers during their junior year towards the end of the school year, so they're not waiting until they come back, and then the teachers are getting bombarded with a lot of requests, " Salazar says.

This year, both teachers and counselors have seen an uptake in the number of college applications. A lot more students than before have asked Whitney and her colleagues for recommendation letters. In previous years, she writes around 45 or so letters, but this year, she wrote up to 60 letters.

Whitney explains her reasoning behind the increase in college applications. "[Maybe] they want to make sure they cast their net very wide so they have a choice of a few schools, but I've noticed this year that a lot of students have been applying to more schools," Whitney says. 

Salazar provides a different explanation for the rise in college applications. "The awareness of the importance of college and getting a higher education really is something that is driving a lot of more students to apply," Salazar says.

Though the process of college applications may seem challenging, Blair's staff are always around to support the Blazers. Whether it be helping to revise and edit college essays or to understand the ins and outs of an application, the counseling office and teachers are more than willing to provide assistance.

The counseling department provides Blazers with numerous resources to utilize, including a step-by-step checklist and timeline, which Nolasco has found extremely helpful. "They give you the steps and videos on how to do it. They go step-by-step and give you all the resources, like links and everything. I finished everything by looking at that list," Nolasco says.

As the Blazers take work towards their first step out of high school, they are accompanied by the support of all administration and staff who are unequivocally there to let them thrive.

Last updated: Nov. 18, 2021, 5:09 p.m.

Tags: College applications Seniors #blazer

Isabelle Yang. Hi! I'm Isabelle (she/her). Outside of SCO, I love to listen to music, hike and solve puzzles. More »

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