College application tips and tricks

Riley Lavine, Contributing Writer

College application season can be a stressful time for many students. It is one of the first steps in deciding what students want to do with their future, and filling out the application is no easy task. Solon High School (SHS) seniors sitting in commons talk about their application status and which schools they are applying to, which causes pressure for students who are still figuring it all out.

Students sometimes feel bombarded with lists of things they have to do throughout this process but lack insight on what colleges look for and advice when filling out the application itself. Solon guidance counselors and college admissions officers are helpful resources to provide advice for students regarding these issues.

Stephanie Levenson, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Monmouth College in Ill., gives insight on what students who are lost in a sea of majors and minors should do with their application.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with students saying upfront that they are unsure,” Levenson said. “Colleges understand and expect students to explore and figure out what their academic passion might be.”

Levenson also provided reassurance by saying how there are plenty of opportunities to figure it out once students get to college, and many introductory courses for students to see what might interest them that they have never been exposed to before.

Rick Nowak, SHS guidance counselor, explains how this year specifically, is different from those in the past due to the test optional component. Nowak explains how that will be reflected in the admissions process.

“Because the test piece is getting taken out right now, probably the biggest two parts are GPA and rigor,” Nowak said. “The reason I say rigor though is because they don’t want to see students with just a 4.0 in general CP classes, they want to see you get challenged and they want to see a great GPA with honors or AP and a rigorous schedule that you can handle.”

Another concern for many students is how they can make themselves stand out in a pool filled with thousands of applicants. Solon High School (SHS) head guidance counselor Ann Trocchio explains what she feels students can do throughout their high school experience to help them stand out on their application.

“Standing out is giving back to others, not being about self,” Trocchio said. “What can we do to help others? That seems to be where the students that do that really stand out.”

Junior Sophia Lance explains how she has worked to help others and contribute to her college resume.

“I have definitely been getting more involved in the [Freshman Mentoring] program and getting myself involved in more clubs,” Lance said.

Furthermore, Levenson explains how it is really about the student having a good sense of themselves and showing that they are making good choices in terms of potential colleges. Students should understand what they want and that is all work that they have to do to understand what environment they are the best worker in.

“We are looking for people who are confident in what they have done and what they can present,” Levenson said. “That doesn’t mean you have to be in every single organization, students who have found something that they enjoy and have done something with it.”

While Levenson and Trocchio provide tips for students during this process, they also address the most common mistakes that students make and ways to combat those mishaps.

Levenson illustrates how the lack of research in understanding why the school is a good fit for students is a mistake that is commonly seen among college admissions officers.

“You can do research in a number of ways, it can be online research and understanding or information that you gather from a visit. Where it doesn’t feel specific to that school you visited is when it becomes an issue,” Levenson said.

Trocchio explains how when students are filling out their application, they can be a little careless and do not pay attention to things they are writing regarding spelling and grammar.

Furthermore, Trocchio adds how students who are doing research on their own, tend to get misinformation from certain online sources and that can be reflected in their application.

Students can take advantage of the five guidance counselors here at SHS who can aid students during the college application process and prevent these mistakes from happening. Trocchio explains what these counselors do throughout the four years students are at SHS.

“We actually start [the college application process] when you’re a freshman and you don’t really know we are doing it,” Trocchio said. “We meet and we begin to get you on Naviance and teach you how to do career searches. We start with what major, course selections, what you are going to be interested in the future, what subjects you like and why you like those.”

During junior year, the counselors go through student summer activities, help build resumes, talk more about what majors students might be interested in and what type of environment they want for college.

“We meet and then we have our junior jumpstart that really jumps into it heavy duty,” Trocchio said. “We give you expectations, what we expect you to do the rest of that year and through the summer, then we meet in the fall for your senior application.”

Senior Jordan Chaitoff reflects on his personal experience with his guidance counselor and how he has been assisted along the way.

“So the guidance counselors gave me a lot of resources to figure out what my intended major would be,” Chaitoff said. “And now I’m very passionate about going into the teaching apartment because of these resources that they provided.”

While the counselors that work at SHS are a vital resource for students, many students do not take into consideration the tools that the universities themselves can provide for them during this process.

Just like your school counselor is there to assist you during the process,” Levenson said. “There are plenty of folks on the other side who are there really to help answer questions, help give you information that you didn’t even know you needed because you didn’t know to ask questions.”

Levenson elaborated by saying how admissions counselors are interested in dedicating themselves to helping students get to college and are really there as a valuable resource for both the student and the parent.