Students head down long road to college

College. The word alone brings a rush of sighs, groans and nervousness from almost every St. Paul Academy and Summit School student. The college search process, which starts for all SPA students during sophomore year, is a culmination of standardized testing, researching, studying and decision-making. During the month of March, members of the sophomore, junior and senior classes reach new heights on the road to college acceptance, including visiting potential colleges, taking the SAT and ACT and hearing back from schools. Students share their experiences with college preparation.

During sophomore year, the thought of college still seems distant and unclear. Students are assigned to their college counselors, Jill Apple or Mary Hill, with whom they meet on occasional History Department Days. “They talked about summer programs that we could do and they talked about basically setting up [college and career readiness website] Naviance,” sophomore Bella Martinez said.

With the ACT and SAT tests far off, most sophomores are focusing more on their summer plans rather than cramming for standardized tests. Along with plenty of volunteering, sophomore Afsar Sandozi is thinking about her future activities. “For the summer I am getting stuff planned out, I am trying not to worry about the ACT or SAT,” Sandozi said. Sophomores meet in large groups about once a month to learn about Advanced Placement and SAT Subject tests along with more Naviance exploration.

Junior year makes St. Paul Academy and Summit School students feel like sought-after celebrities. Colleges bombard students with endless brochures, programs, e-mails and reminders. Junior Sarah Coleman knows this first hand and has a very clever way of controlling this excess recruiting. “I have an entire hamper at my house devoted solely to letters from different colleges and it weighs like 20 pounds,” Coleman said.

Coleman said that along with the overwhelming communication with colleges, it is important to stay on top of all the other aspects of her life. “The most difficult part is keeping everything balanced… keeping grades up, college counseling, social life… it all just sort of meshes together,” Coleman said. “It is hard to put as much time as you would like into each.” In their weekly college counseling sessions, juniors are given time to reach out to colleges they are interested in to get more information, such as brochures and magazines. Reaching out to potential matches for colleges will help juniors prepare for the dreaded application process in senior year.

Finally, senior year arrives. Though many television shows make the last year of high school seem like a breeze, this is not the case for most St. Paul Academy and Summit School seniors. Senior Kate Larsen knows this stress firsthand. “I am a big procrastinator, so I would leave everything to the last minute. It was awful when I had several apps due on the same day and a test or project in school the next day,” Larsen said.

Most of the college-centered stress senior year revolves around the application process. Many colleges and universities accept the Common Application while others use their own individual application for admission. “I did nine apps, and only two of those were not on the Common App, so they didn’t take too long. I would advise younger students to start filling out the Common App during the summer before senior year so you can focus on the supplements,” Larsen said. Larsen explained that the supplement essays for each college took her the most time to complete. “The supplements I did weren’t particularly long or difficult but I know people who had really wacky ones that took a ton of time to answer,” she said. Still waiting to hear back from several schools, Larsen maintains a positive attitude about her applications.. “It’s a bit nerve wracking having to wait until the end of March to hear back, but I don’t have my heart set on any one school so I’m not going to be heartbroken,” Larsen said. “I don’t believe that there is only one right school for anybody. Each school is what you make of it. I think everything will work out for the best and even if I end up not liking my school, I can always transfer.”