Does college advice help? Juniors react to senior wisdom


Kailey Cullen

The search for college advice leads many students to obsessively focus on getting into an elite university.

Applying to college is stressful and all-consuming. Starting as early as freshman year, students read countless articles online about how to create the perfect application and write the best essay. They watch YouTube videos entitled “How to write the best college essay” and “How I got into Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, and Princeton.” Videos like these are, in theory, filled with ways to stand out.

The irony, though, is that these videos themselves don’t stand out. Most of them just repeat the same generic advice: avoid cliche, reflect on significant aspects of your life, don’t try to claim you’re the savior of the universe.

To try to get some better, more specific college advice for Tologs, the Veritas Shield talked to a few seniors to ask for their thoughts. And, to assess this advice, the juniors of the Veritas Shield staff have recorded their reactions. What do juniors actually think when seniors tell them what to do?


Be specific in your supplements

When looking at potential colleges, make sure there’s a reason why you’re applying, as you’ll likely have to write a specific, focused supplement. Like, if your only reason for applying is that the college has  a good location, good teachers, good whatever, you’re not saying anything special. Write things that actually reveal something. — Meghan Sullivan ‘20

It’s so easy to add a college to your Naviance list solely because it has a recognizable name. Yale is just as much an educational institution as it is a brand. When I think of Harvard, one of the images that comes to mind is Princess Diana frolicking around in her Ivy League sweatshirt and cool shades. It’s not the dream of being a Harvard student that most people are pining after but the idea of being a Harvard alum, of owning the name. Wanting to be a part of this is so easy. But that can’t be your answer for “Why Princeton?” — Ella Kitt ‘21

“Sometimes it’s kinda awkward to bring up the REAL reason you want to attend a college. Why Arizona? I like going to tailgates. Why UCSB? I like surfer boys. So, when I am asked “why Arizona,” I will say something like, “Oh, it has a really nice campus feel.” Sure, Arizona HAS a nice campus, but that’s not why I would WANT to go…” — Claire McDonald ‘21

“This is 100% what I struggle with the most. I have no clue what to look for in a college! Obviously location, size and other basic things will influence my decision, but I don’t have something specific that I’m looking for. Every college is the same to me because I know I have the same chances of being successful or unsuccessful anywhere I go.” –Angelina Arevalos ‘21


Don’t stress about the essay

My advice would be to not get stressed out about the essay. It’s really not that hard to write because it’s not like a school essay; it’s about yourself. It’s kind of hard to identify what’s unique about yourself because you don’t really think of yourself like that, but once you have an idea, you never know how far you’ll take it. — Janna De Vera ‘20

“I have a lot of ideas for the topic of my essay, so my problem right now is choosing the one that shows my character the best. I don’t think I’ll struggle with it, but I know for a fact that I can’t write it on my own. I think, especially when you reflect on yourself, it’s important to talk to your close friends and family, just to hear other perspectives.” –Angelina Arevalos ‘21

“Last week in religion class, we had a writing brainstorming session in small groups with our college counselors, and I discovered that this writing process was a little bit easier than I had imagined. When I found a prompt that really resonated with me, I started writing and I just couldn’t stop. Once I had an idea going, I just ran with it and saw that it took me somewhere that I didn’t think it would take me.” — Carisa Joyner ‘21

“I have a basic idea of what I like and what’s special about me, but I am also pretty boring, so I know the essay is going to be rough. I have been trying to use this time in quarantine to develop some passions and become more of an intellectual, but every time I try to sit down and read a book or do needlepoint, I remember I need to know if Jimmy and Fiona are going to last the rest of this season, so I go back to binge-watching “Shameless.”  — Claire McDonald ‘21


Make a discovery draft

For essays, pick a day, take a few hours and just write. Spit out your life story. Spit it all out, and then I bet you will use most of it in some supplement that you will eventually write. I wrote all the things that I remembered — things that mattered to me, my hobbies — and then I think I used probably 90 percent of those topics in one way or another. — Katrina Manaloto ‘20 

“A FEW HOURS! That’s a LONG time to write about yourself. I don’t think I have more than five sentences to say about myself. Oh gosh, this is going to be hard.” — Claire McDonald ‘21

“I am so happy that I have a good memory just for this reason. I’ve also kept a few journals over the years, so I’ve been looking at those to remind myself of a few memories. I think this is a good idea because once I’ve gotten everything out on the table, I’ll be able to pick a few to expand on. Since I have nothing to do over spring break, I’ll probably try taking a few hours to write about myself during this time.” — Angelina Arevalos ‘21


Reflect on who you are

Find what makes you unique and express that as much as you can in your application. Try to embrace and expand upon your interests and passions, regardless of how unrelated to your intended major they may be. Don’t feel pressured to present yourself in a particular way just to appeal to admissions officers. — Natalie Isaghulian ‘20

“I’ve come up with a good list of essay topics, but finding what makes me unique within those topics has been difficult. I have a lot of basic answers, so I’m trying to find ways to expand them or develop them into something more unique. Once I find what I’m looking for, I know the rest of the essay will flow.” — Angelina Arevalos ‘21

 I feel like it’s hard to think about what makes you unique without seeming arrogant. Having to narrow in on what makes me special is going to be an interesting experience, because I want to advertise myself well without coming off as conceited or generic, which is feasible but challenging nonetheless. — Ella Kitt ‘21


This article originally appeared in the Veritas Shield’s 2020 senior print issue.