The Class of 2022 Reflects on College Applications


Fordham University. Photo courtesy of Caroline Lehman

Amy Lepore, Co Editor-in-Chief

As the 2021-2022 college application season winds down, ERHS seniors are finalizing their applications and submitting them to colleges and universities all over the country. Now, as they anxiously await their admissions decisions, five seniors share the details of their experiences and advice they have for future applicants.

What was your application timeline like?
Cora Jackson: “I started my personal statement essay in the spring of my junior year, but I worked on it pretty consistently until mid-December. I still do not feel comfortable with it, but there’s nothing more I can do. I asked for all of my letters of recommendation in the spring of my junior year, as well, which I definitely recommend. I started filling out the Common App info ASAP, but I procrastinated a ton on supplementals.”
Sydney Taylor: “I started in August. I used the first week that applications were open to skim through and see what needed to be done, and I organized everything that I needed to work on. I asked for recommendations at the end of junior year, so like May or June. I worked at a fairly steady pace, I tried my best to just get stuff done and out of the way.”
Anya Wilkinson: “I submitted everything last minute…which wasn’t my plan at all but I procrastinated. I started with asking for recommendation letters first at the end of junior year for one teacher, and at the end of the summer for another teacher who had a longer request process. I definitely recommend asking for letters early so teachers have plenty of time to write them and you don’t have to rush them. I meant to do more over the summer but I didn’t, I think I started around September and October with the application itself and did my essay in October/November.”
Julia Knisley: “I started my applications in December and submitted them all before the new year. I requested letters of recommendation and transcripts at least two weeks in advance, but I do wish I’d done transcripts earlier because my schools still haven’t received them and it’s been over a month.”
Sophie Bose: “I started my application in August I think. I actually ended up finishing them all in late October. Most weren’t due until January but I just wanted to get everything done and out of the way.”

Did you apply early action (non-binding decision) or early decision (binding decision) to any schools? What influenced your decision?
Cora Jackson: “I applied early action to my three safety schools because I wanted there to be less pressure and stress around winter break when I was finishing up regular decision applications…it definitely took a huge weight off my shoulders.”
Sydney Taylor: “Most of the schools I applied to were early action. Some colleges suggested applying early action to be considered for their need-based scholarships and special programs. I had a fee waiver for one school, and that school suggested applying early for that special fee waiver. I heard back from all the schools already, it was about a month after their deadline and most results came back in December.”
Anya Wilkinson: “I applied early action only to UMD. I originally wasn’t going to apply early anywhere, because I didn’t have a single top choice school that I would consider without knowing my aid package, and I didn’t think my application was ready anyway. But about two weeks before the UMD early application was due, I learned that UMD admits the most students from their early application, and it gets much more competitive at regular decision. I didn’t want to find myself in a bind later on, so I rushed my application and submitted it the day before.”
Julia Knisley: “I didn’t apply early action due to my pending ROTC application, and it didn’t make sense for me.”
Sophie Bose: “My only school that offered early action was UMD, the rest of them only did early decision. So, I just did them all regular decision except UMD.”

What advice did you receive that helped you most through the application process? What resources/people were the most helpful?
Cora Jackson: “You’ve done the bulk of the work already. Applications are just the last push. As for resources, social media was awesome to get in touch with people. Many college students—especially from small schools—are really willing to talk with you about their experiences. Also, all of the Zoom meetings that the class of 2021 set up for us were extremely helpful.”
Sydney Taylor: “Pretty much everyone said ‘don’t wait until the last minute’ and I definitely agree. Applications require a lot of time and energy (and money if you don’t have fee waivers) so it’s important to plan ahead of time, and get stuff done early. Also, ask for help, talk to family and friends who might’ve done this before or get help from teachers who can help with things like essays and stuff. Get your senior questionnaire done ASAP, it just makes it easier for you. Do early action for more schools, it makes it easier to get them out of the way, plus it’s easier to be considered for scholarships. I would say my parents were especially helpful, as well as Niche [a website that helps students find colleges that are right for them]. Also, Cora’s college group chat was so helpful, all of us were able to get help on essays, ask about college visit experiences and more, and that was just amazing. And finally, don’t let these applications become your life. Yes, it is important to get these done, but don’t overwhelm yourself and put applications before your sanity and health. Take breaks, relax, senior year is supposed to be fun.”
Anya Wilkinson: “On the Common App extracurricular section, just put the most important stuff, not every little thing—put your real commitments that mean something to you. In your essay, show a side to yourself not reflected in the application. You can of course still talk about your extracurriculars, but you want to stand out, so personally I think something more reflective shows personal growth and maturity, and above all else you want it to be genuine to who you are. For the school specific essays/writing supplements, do your research. Don’t be generic, scour the website and find things you like about the school or program, like specific classes, professors, or research at the school. As for resources, virtual college visits were pretty helpful, as were my parents and just college websites. I feel like I knew a lot about the process from advice or the internet that I had picked up over the years so I didn’t need extra college application sessions.”
Julia Knisley: “The best advice I received is to be honest in your essays. The colleges want you, not the story you made up for them. The most helpful resources were people I met who’ve done to my schools and my sister who helped me proofread and make sure my applications were perfect.”

What advice would you give to future applicants?
Cora Jackson: “My biggest piece of advice is to find a ‘safety’ school that you would be excited to attend. Early on, I found Centre College, which is technically a safety school for me, but I really fell in love with it because of the deep conversations I had with the admissions counselors there. The attention and resources I got from them were helpful for the college application process in general and they relieved an unbelievable amount of stress; they made it fun. Applying to a school you love that’s also affordable (and possibly free) and that you’re almost certain you’ll get into is pretty much all you can ask for.”
Sydney Taylor: “Always have a backup plan. Have backup teachers for recommendations, have backup essay ideas if one topic doesn’t work for you, have backup schools and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Just have backups, you’ll feel more at ease. Have a planner, calendar, or agenda book, it just makes things easier. Ask for help, always. Don’t neglect your resources, they’re here for a reason. Make sure to press that celebrate button at the end of applications, they definitely help make me feel better after all the stress of finishing an application. Find as many fee waivers as possible. And above all, prioritize yourself. Don’t burn yourself out, especially for those who are doing RP. Prioritize yourself and manage your time.”
Anya Wilkinson: “Just please don’t procrastinate. Make sure you know the difference between early action and early decision. The hardest part is starting, especially with the essay, so just start with anything—you can make new versions or choose new topics later, but just start anywhere and make a draft.”
Julia Knisley: “My advice would be to stay calm. Everything will work out in the end. Also, never leave something this important to the last minute, get started early.”
Sophie Bose: “By all means, do it early. Especially your college essay. I took one weekend in October where I wasn’t doing much and just worked on applying for basically the entire weekend. Also, don’t apply to too many schools. Only do it if you really, truly can picture yourself there, otherwise you’re just giving yourself unnecessary work and fees. And lastly, definitely do reach out to graduates. They’re a great resource and would totally love to help you out and offer advice.”