Navigating a tough challenge: college admissions

As thousands of virtual and distanced commencement ceremonies are happening across the country, millions of high school students are leaving behind four years of memories and hard work. For many, students have gone through one of the most challenging processes of their high school careers – the college application. The process requires applicants to submit a personal statement essay as well as supplemental responses. 

“The essay part of The Common App was quite daunting, I will not lie,” said Jack Williams, a recent graduate from Westlake High School and a rising undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins University. “Writing a single, 650-word essay that has a large amount of influence on where you will be spending the next 2-4 years of your life is a bit intimidating. Trying to figure out what to write about, while attempting to have it be very personal, but not too mainstream, is not an easy feat.” 

Other students agree. Amy Hizlan, also a recent WHS graduate, said, “I think essays are really important deciders among college admission officers, especially now that colleges are trying to gauge personality before admitting applicants. I found it challenging to describe my character.” Amy plans to continue her education at Cleveland State University this coming fall. 

In addition to test scores and extracurricular activities, many admissions officers also value an application beyond a student’s academics and extracurricular achievements. Students take the essay component as an opportunity to highlight their writing ability and to demonstrate who they are as people. 

Recognizing such difficulty, Talya Jeter, a Westlake High School alumna and Duke University undergraduate student, started a college essay service in hopes of providing more guidance to high school students during the college application process. Talya began blogging on to share her advice for high school students and suggestions to approach the essay. “For me, I've grown a lot through this process because I've been able to learn how to better my own writing,” she said. 

She has seen high school students all over the world struggle with finding deep introspection. Talya believes that the college essay process goes beyond conventional writing styles and the topic and content of the essay are far more valuable. She emphasizes the importance of finding something meaningful and conveying it genuinely. 

“Sometimes it's hard to find our uniqueness or what makes us, us. The essay writing process [often involves] soul searching…[and is an] emotional, introspective process,” Talya explained.

While senior year of high school may be intimidating and challenging, the application process can impute values and lessons that a traditional classroom environment may lack. 

“More than anything, I think the college application process taught me that there is so much more to college and life than grades and test scores,” said WHS grad Jack Williams. “Obviously, society puts a big emphasis on [stats], but there’s so much more than just those things. Students really need to express themselves and let college admissions know a little bit more about them.”

Nathan Hsiao recently graduated from Westlake High School and will attend Case Western Reserve University in the fall.

Nathan Hsiao

Nathan Hsiao was the Editor-in-Chief of The Green and White Newspaper at Westlake High School. I will be attending Case Western Reserve University this fall as a freshman.

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Volume 12, Issue 12, Posted 9:48 AM, 06.16.2020