The (Probably) Helpful Guide to Admissions for the Average, Hopeless Student

Troi Metzger, Writer and Staff

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Hey guys, I’m currently a senior at Rio Mesa…for anyone wondering…and have survived
the college application process. Really, it’s not too hard of a feat if you stay on top of it. The ‘it’
being what I’m going to list later in this article. Anyways, just to make a disclaimer: all of the
following is from my experience, and not an official ‘This is the ONLY way to finish this
Now, getting down to it. The following is primarily for 4-year universities.
1. Grades/GPA do matter (sorry for stating the obvious) to many universes. While
Freshman and Senior year are important —yes, they are — many universities primarily
look at Sophomore and Junior year. However all four years of high school contribute to
your GPA, which can be selective at some universities.
2. Try to have some steady extracurricular activities. This can be either inside or outside of
school, in areas such as work, internships, clubs, arts, sports, etc. For extra points, many
universities like to see that you have leadership positions in these activities. For even
more brownie points, some more selective universities like extracurricular activities in
the area you plan to major in (ex: major in Art, be in Art club), this is more difficult
because it is normal for students to not know which fields they want to enter. Keep in
mind many universities do not count activities done only before high school.
3. Volunteer. This might seem difficult for students who haven’t been involved in volunteer
work before, but it’s actually very easy. You can join clubs at school (such as CSF, Key
Club, and many others) that offer group volunteer activities locally. Or you can look
separately for local areas that take volunteers like the library, hospital, food pantry. While
volunteering isn’t necessary — remember this is all my advice — it will definitely help
your application, especially at selective universities and for scholarships. In my
experience, it’s beneficial to have minimum 1 and maximum 7 places where you put in
more than one session. This way on applications, when there are only, say, five slots for
volunteer experience you are able to show consistency, dedication, and hard work
through your multiple hours and long time period of contribution. This is really best case

scenario however, and any sort of beneficial volunteering experience makes you more
4. Standardized testing, such a pain really, but, alas, necessary in the USA. In my
experience, the ACT and/or SAT (with Writing/Essay portion) are what is required by
many universities. Mostly, they require only one of the two tests, so choose your best.
What I recommend strongly for these is to STUDY. And I sympathize with you because
it isn’t exactly fun, but it’s worth it. Trust me. Many people I know, including myself,
take both tests, see whichever we do better on or understand more, and take the favored
one again after more studying. It is possible to take these tests tons of times if you wish,
but there are some drawbacks of repetitive testing. 1. It takes up so much time 2. It takes
up so much money 3. You just really don’t want to after a point 4. THE IMPORTANT
RUMOR, is that some universities judge after too many tests are taken. Who knows if
this is true, it sounds true, because it makes it more difficult for us, and that makes sense.
The maximum amount of testing per test I recommend is three. So, if you must, three
SAT and three ACT. But do what you want, this is just advice. Some places to find
resources for studying are: the library, upperclassmen, online, and Narnia. Don’t​ ​forget
to send these scores to the colleges you are applying to, they don’t automatically send.
Note: I am not sure if this is the case for international students as well.
5. Essays. Be specific with them on the application. Not all universities require these, but for the
ones that do they often aren’t all that intimidating. My best advice is to just write it,
initially at least. After it’s done you can go back and edit. In fact I think I rewrote
multiple of my essays three or six times. It’s not so bad though, because I never had to
start from scratch. Also, know that we at Rio Mesa are lucky enough to have teachers,
counselors, and a college advisor to help. I recommend showing it to one of them, and
you don’t have to take their advice or change who you are, just hear what they have to
say and change what you want. ALSO: know that it’s O.K. if you haven’t saved the
Amazon or become president yet, you’re just a teen and colleges understand this.
6. Letters of recommendation. Just know that some universities ask for these. The amount
varies, usually between 1-3. This means you should be on decent terms with at least at

least at​ ​least​ ​one of your teachers. Not only because they’re the cool people helping
develop your mind, but also because they can write you lit letters of rec. I recommend
that you fill out the Rio Mesa Brag Sheet (if you don’t know what it is ask, it’s
important). Be detailed, brag even. This is what it’s for. Tip: ask your teacher to keep the
letter saved on their computer for the rest of the year, just in case they have to send it
somewhere again.
7. The crazy counselor stuff. Very vague, I know, I’m sorry. I truly don’t know all that
much about it myself. The counselors, your individual counselor, is sometimes required
to do extra stuff for your application. Please look under the application requirements to
see what the counselor has to do, then ask them to do this. And they’ll do it for you
‘cause they’re chill people. So be nice to them.
8. Naviance. Basically the hook up where your teachers, counselor, and other staff can send
things to the colleges you are applying to. You will get a packet with instructions on how
to use it your senior year. Read the packet, do as instructed, ask questions if necessary.
9. On actually filling out the application. There are multiple places for this, depending on
the universitiy(es) you choose. Whatever and wherever, make sure you have plenty of
time to fill them (because there are complications and crashes), keep a nice, clean,
uncluttered email that you will use for for the next few years, keep all your passwords
safe, and ask for help if you need it. If something doesn’t seem right, ask. Someone
knows how to help.
10. EXTRA Important: Financial Aid. Yay! This is super awesome when it works out. You
have the potential to save thousands of dollars. Amazing! To do this for smaller things
like SAT costs, ACT costs, or applications costs, see the school financial aid advisor and
sign up (know only certain people are eligible based on income). Additionally, for
college savings, sign up for the FAFSA. This is where you could save the big bucks. It is
an online government application where you can report all the intimate, uncomfortable,
personal financial information involving you and your parent/guardian. It is a bit
uncomfortable, yes, because no one likes doing it for fear of the…I’m not entirely sure,
the tax police I guess. However, if you should have no fear of these tax police then do it.

It gives you access potentially to the Cal Grant and the Pell Grant. Not everyone gets
them, it is based on many things such as income. Despite this, even if it you don’t reach
the grant requirements, the FAFSA is sent to the universities of your choosing. This is
another possibility of saving thousands, as it places you in tuition fee areas based on the
FAFSA. So, it might cause some uncomfortable feelings in the house, but if you can then
do it.

Ugh, what a long article. That’s all I can think of at the moment guys. If you have any
questions, feel free to ask me and I’ll answer as best as I can. Or, even better, ask our college
Anyways, I hope that helped. Don’t be so stressed, it’ll work out in the end.

Best wishes,

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The (Probably) Helpful Guide to Admissions for the Average, Hopeless Student