By Isabelle Todd
Giving up two hours on a school night is not something most high school seniors can fit into their busy schedule. “Trying to balance school work, volunteer groups, work, voice lessons, and AP classes, I barely have time to breathe, never mind write six supplement essays,” says Cammie Waterhouse (‘16). Senior year stress is setting into place and most students can barely find time to work on their application, let alone attend a presentation on the application process. If that sounds like your situation and you weren’t able to attend the NHHEAF “College Overview for Seniors” presentation at Oyster River High School on Tuesday night, here’s what you missed. The New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF) is an organization focused on providing families and students with all things regarding college. Last week, a representative from NHHEAF came to ORHS to talk about what college preparation should look like for us seniors.
The first topic delved into was the college search process. “What should you be looking for out of a college?” NHHEAF suggested that you need to be able to see yourself thriving there. “Colleges are just as much of a business as they are a school,” says Christian Burt (‘16). If you’re a student that took a trip to a college during the summer you should try to stop by for a tour this fall when there are actually students roaming the campus. The campus vibe is definitely different when you see how big or how small the school is.
Secondly, “Will this school be able to support your learning style?” Are you a student that can survive 200+ student lecture halls? What about academic support? And tutoring options?
Thirdly, do you they have a variety of majors you may want to pursue? NHHEAF suggests that you not pigeonhole yourself into going to a school only because of the major it offers. Be sure the school has a variety of major options that may potentially interest you. Although you may seem opposed to the idea that you may change your mind, most students will change majors multiple times before their junior year. Lastly…. “Is this school going to help you beyond the classroom? For example, jobs and internships and more?”
Assuming that you have formed a list of colleges that you want to apply to, “How do you narrow it down to the ones that you are definitely going to apply to?” After all, application fees add up pretty quickly. NHHEAF suggests that you approach finalizing your list with the “2-2-2” technique. Meaning, two schools that it is probable that you will be accepted into, two schools that are your target schools and two schools that are your reach schools. Keep in mind that some schools are more popular than others and it’s not always that you aren’t smart enough to get in, but rather that they just don’t have room. “One of my biggest worries for college is that 30-45 thousand people are applying to some colleges and that’s scary to me” says Joe Green (‘16).
With this solid list of schools it is now all about formulating your application. Recommendations are a huge piece of that. Remember, teachers need at minimum of three weeks to write a recommendation. So the sooner you ask, the better. This requires meeting with the teacher privately and explaining to them why you want them to write you a letter of recommendation. Pick a teacher that you think understands you as a student. Maybe a teacher that has seen you grow from freshmen to senior year. In addition to teacher recommendations you will need to fill out the Senior Sketch, aka a brag sheet. This is a series of questions about yourself that you are to answer for your counselor to read and use to write your recommendation letter. Another time sensitive necessity would be the SAT or ACT. If you’re looking to get one more set of scores under your belt make sure you are signed up for one that is far enough before your application is due.
The Common Application is what most colleges require you to use to submit your applications. The Common App can be filled out in probably an hour, excluding the essay. It is series of personal questions regarding you and your family. Ah yes, and the essay. That one lingering item on your checklist. NHHEAF talked about how your essay should be unique, using the example that the most written about topic last year was “Moms”. Yes, your Mom may be an unbelievable person but literally every person on this earth has a mother. NHHEAF stressed the statement that your essay should be “unique but not necessarily exotic”.
Okay so now you’ve got the essay, the recommendations, at least one SAT score you can sit with, your resume, and the Common App’s questions all completed. Now it’s time to actually apply… Early decision? Early action? Regular? NHHEAF broke down the these three categories. Early decision is an option that only works well for a select group, it pretty much means that if you apply to this school and get in you must go. Regardless of the other schools you may get into and the financial aid you receive, you have to go to this school. Early action on the other hand is a non binding agreement, essentially the same thing as regular application but ahead of everyone else. And then there’s regular decision, the last deadline at most schools to submit your application. How you should go about deciding which schools you should apply early and which to apply regular is something the NHHEAF is a great assistance to. They can sit with you one on one and go through your whole application process.
“The best piece of advice I received was that colleges aren’t looking for students who did every club or every sport, they want students who really focused on a couple specific extracurricular activities,” says Kathryn Lanoue (‘16). NHHEAF is a really helpful organization that truly wants you to succeed and help you get into a college that not only you will like but that you will do well at. They can coach you through the whole process. One hour from Durham is a person that you can meet with to make the application get done but also get done well. “There’s a lot to the process, a lot of things to consider, from the finances to the admissions. It’s important for students and parents to remember that they are consumers in this process,” says ORHS counselor Kim Sekera. For a further look into the NHHEAF presentation, take a look at the attached PDF.