How to Hack the College Admissions Process: Advice from Our Seniors

By: Caroline Koppelman

Our class of 2017 has started the college application process. They are writing their essays, finalizing their lists, and visiting schools. Most of them are calm and feel very prepared, but they can’t help but be a little anxious. There are so many unknowns in this process, so we decided to ask our class of 2016 for some advice. As the TKG class of 2016 heads to schools across the United States, including Stanford, UPenn, NYU, USC, University of Michigan, UNC Chapel Hill, Barnard, and more, they’re offering their advice for our upcoming seniors. 

“Find balance between work and play. Word hard and play hard. But it doesn’t work if you don’t do both parts.”

Senior year is by far the most fun year of high school. Make sure you get all of your work done before going to any parties. Managing all of your classes and staying organized will help you make the most of it. 

“Write down every accomplishment you have and track the amount of hours you put into everything.”

As high school goes on you’re bound to forget many of the things you’ve done. Start keeping a list of everything you’ve done, no matter how small, as early as possible. Even if you don’t use it on your activities supplement, it might provide inspiration for a supplement or a talking point during an interview. Most students don’t know that the Common App asks how many hours you spend doing every activity. It’s important to start keeping track of this early, so you can represent it correctly on your application. 

“We tend to compare ourselves to the best version of everyone else we meet, especially when we're competing for things like college admission. So while grappling with your own anxieties and self-doubts, you need to know that the people you meet who are also vying for admission have problems too, even if they're not outwardly evident. In reality, no one is totally confident when it comes to college admissions because it's something that is so variant and holistic. No one knows exactly what a school is looking for. So I'd say to focus on your application and don’t worry about others. At the end of the day you can be happy wherever you end up.”

“Set goals early on.”

It’s important to be organized during senior year. Setting a goal of finishing your common app essay or an application a week can keep you on track and less stressed.  

“In your application communicating a narrative is very important. Everyone is high achieving. You need to be different and personable.”

The admissions committee can only tell so much about you by who you are on paper. You may be the leader of every club, but you want to humanize yourself as much as possible. Put effort into making your essays and supplements as unique as possible.  

“Brand name schools are not everything. What you do at a school matters more than what school it is.”

Most of the most successful people didn’t go to Ivy League schools. You’ll be able to find opportunities at any school if you look for them, so don’t fixate on the name. 

“Don’t get stuck on a vision of yourself only at one school.”

Although a lot of schools have unique and differentiating characteristics, many schools are very similar. A lot of students decide on one school and hold onto it as a form of security. It creates a sense of comfort to picture yourself at one place because imagining the infinite possibilities and unknowns can make you freak out. But, it’s important to know that you’ll do well wherever you end up and your dreams of what you can accomplish in college are not tied to one school.  

“Start applications as soon as they’re available or else your first semester senior year will be a nightmare.”

The Common App is out! If you are stuck on essay topics or haven’t finalized a list of schools, you can always start with the logistical sections of the application. Even simply registering for the Common App will put you in the mindset for applications.