As the son of a college admissions counselor, my application journey began long before I ever set foot in a high school. Since I was a young age, I have visited hundreds of colleges around the country, usually against my will. And while I admittedly skipped the wide majority of the campus tours to head toward the football stadiums, I will admit that being exposed to a wide variety of colleges I did not consider helped me decide which ones I should.
Even as I enjoyed my time rising through the ranks of K-12, I have always looked forward to college. It excites me as a time to become more independent and explore my interests as well as my disinterests. I was seeking large universities with a plethora of options for these exact reasons. Additionally, I wasn't (and am still not) sure what I wanted to study and major in, so it made sense to look at schools with a diverse set of academic disciplines. Finally, as a huge sports fan, it was important for me to attend a school with a lot of spirit and excitement surrounding athletics.
Once I had narrowed down my list of colleges, then began the actual applications. Luckily, platforms like the Common App or Coalition App make the personal information part relatively quick and easy to fill out, but the essays are a different story. There were a few essays that could be used for multiple schools, but each school requiring individual essays was a draining process. I even decided not to apply to one college because there were just too many supplemental essays. Fortunately, I was surrounded with a very helpful group of people that provided much needed help in navigating the confusing and tiring application process.
A lot of people who have gone through the college admissions process will tell you that the most stressful part of it all is the waiting. And there is a lot of it. For some schools I applied to, the period between finalizing the application and getting a response was almost five months! Despite this, the ups and downs of my senior year of high school were enough to distract me. In fact, there were some decisions that came out, and before I got an email from the admissions office, I had completely forgotten about them. But what helped the most was putting my all into my applications and working hard for four years of high school. I was confident in myself and knew that the outcome would not determine my self-worth or make me any less accomplished.
That is a trap that I feel many applicants fall into — thinking that getting into a more selective school makes you a more accomplished or better person. Academic accomplishment is important and for some people is everything, but I don't personally agree with the notion that not enjoying your high school years because of the prospect of getting into a selective school is validated by doing so. It's important to maintain a good balance between school and other activities, especially during the latter years of high school.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended almost every aspect of society that we took for granted before. Schools are closed, social events are cancelled, and there's nowhere to go and nothing to do. While this has absolutely negatively affected my senior year of high school, it has luckily not (so far) affected my college experience. I do, however, feel for the junior class of high school that will have things like standardized testing and summer activities jeopardized because of this outbreak.
After all the decisions came in, I was left with the task of actually deciding where to go to college. I had great options, and knew that no matter where I decided to go I would be happy and get a great education. However, after weighing the pros and cons of each school and talking to current students and alumni, I finally decided to attend the University of Maryland. UMD has everything that I wanted in a college at an in-state price, and it was too good to turn down. I can't wait for the next four years! Go Terps!
About the writer: Emmett Siegel is a high school senior in Maryland, who will be attending the University of Maryland this fall.
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