By Casey Keane
The seniors of Jamesville-DeWitt High School are closing in on their college application process with fluctuating levels of excitement and stress. Around this time each year, students are either sailing smoothly, ready to hit that “Submit” button or scrambling to get the college essay written, the common application completed, and the letters of recommendation collected so they can be sent off to colleges. Teachers and counselors play a key role in the college process with the numerous recommendations they write for the students. As this process winds down for many of the J-DHS seniors, the waiting game begins for the letter of rejection or, hopefully, acceptance.
The college application process begins with the Common Application: an application that includes a step-by-step analysis of the student’s profile, family, education, testing, activities, and the infamous college essay. The Common Application makes sending the information colleges need a lot easier for students across the country. This website is also used to tell students when requirements are due, making it so they don’t miss deadlines.
A lot of seniors began their college essays, something students stress about most, during the summer. According to J-DHS school counselor Amy LeStrange, the essay is one of the hardest parts. But even before that, Mrs. LeStrange says piecing everything together and identifying colleges is something that stresses students out the most. Mrs. Lestrange says that an average amount of colleges students apply to is around 6 to 8 schools.
Senior Jessica Pace thinks the end is going to be the hardest part. Pace is in the process of looking at colleges, seeing the requirements colleges are looking for, and where she is compared to those requirements. “One of the colleges I’m applying to is rolling admission,” says Pace. Rolling admission is when students can send in their application at anytime in a large window with no deadline. The other schools Pace is applying to are regular admission with her due dates in January. Pace is looking at SUNY Brockport, SUNY Oswego, and SUNY Binghamton right now. “”It’s all very stressful but I’m getting through it,” says Pace.
Senior Collin McKee, who hopes to major theatre, described the college process for him in one word: “stressful.” McKee is finishing up his Common Application and getting his audition criteria prepared. “I’m not really struggling to meet any of the deadlines either because my first deadline isn’t until Dec. 1,” says McKee. A struggle of the college process is managing school on top of it and communicating with teachers. McKee thinks some of his teachers don’t understand that the seniors have a lot of work outside of school and some of them are piling on an excessive workload. “I don’t think they understand that we have to write a college essay, and do all of the Common Application, and on top of that I have audition stuff,” McKee says. McKee is applying to Fordham University, Marymount Manhattan College, Wagner College, SUNY Fredonia, and Montclair State University.
School Counselor Clete Gualtieri says the process is going differently for everyone. “The reality of it is some students are right on top of it and have already submitted applications. Another group of students are in the middle of finishing things up. Then there’s the group of students who are procrastinating and holding off on getting things done,” says Mr. Gualtieri.
Each guidance counselor has the task of creating a letter of recommendation for each of their seniors. To help with this, students give their counselor a personal evaluation sheet. Students write down their characteristics, their abilities, their strengths, goals, and personal details like their proudest moments in high school and their work experience.
“It’s always difficult,” Mr. Gualtieri comments on the letters of recommendations. “All of us in the counseling center feel an incredible sense of responsibility. When we’re writing a letter, we really want to give colleges a sense for who our students are.” The letter of recommendations are taken very seriously, so it takes a lot of time for counselors to create a letter so the colleges really can see who exactly the student is. “It always hard to find the time and find the creative energy to make that letter as powerful as we want it to be,” says Mr. Gualtieri.
Guidance counselors aren't the only ones writing letters of recommendations. Seniors are told to ask two teachers for recommendations that they have developed a sincere relationship with and who saw them both succeed and struggle. English teacher Matt Phillips says he writes on average 10 to 20 letters each year, each one taking up to about an hour depending on the content for each student.
It’s no doubt the stress can get to the seniors around this time of year. Senior Jackie Rutter says that it’s a stressful process but she’s applying soon. “It was stressful getting the application done but now it’s still stressful because I’m going to have to wait to hear back,” says Rutter. Rutter is applying to SUNY Binghamton, LeMoyne College, Syracuse University, and Ithaca College. Senior Stephanie Naples said the hardest part of the college process was getting her college essay to fit in the Common Application because it’s been too long. Naples said she was submitting her application this upcoming week to LeMoyne College, Ithaca College, SUNY Cortland, and SUNY Oneonta.
It seems that a good amount of seniors are getting their colleges applications in before the holidays. From here, it’s a waiting game to hear back from the colleges students have applied to, or hoping to apply before the deadlines their schools have made. Here’s to the season of turkey, Santa, and deadlines.