Preuss Seniors Discuss College Application Process


Heaven Woldai, Entertainment Writer

This academic year, over 1,600 four-year colleges and universities did not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores due to COVID-19, which led to an increase in the number of students applying to select colleges. According to the Insider Higher Ed, only 46% of students who applied for college this year using the Common Application process submitted their standardized scores, while 77% of students submitted last year. Harvard had an increase of applications this year than last year by around 42%according to the Washington Post.

The Preuss Insider asked the following seniors how they felt the colleges’ decision impacted their application process: Brian Perez, Helen Trinh, Christopher Santiago, and William Wong. Brian will be attending UCLA in the fall; Helen will be attending SDSU; Christopher will attend Yale; and William will be attending UCSD.

Preuss Insider: Do you believe not having to submit an SAT or ACT score helped or hurt your college applications?

Brian: I personally feel like it helped me because all the UC’s had to determine how great of a student I am were my grades and my personal responses, which I really think told such admirable qualities and strengths about me. If I were to be required to take the SAT or ACT, I’d be stressing over trying to get a high score in order to just further communicate to universities that “HEY!! You see? I am such a great person for you to have walking on your campus.” I KNOW I also would have scored pretty average or lower than what would be expected of me.

Helen: I believe that not having to submit an SAT or ACT was a disadvantage for me when I was filling out college applications because I felt that my grades and essays weren’t enough to differentiate me from other students

Christopher: Personally I took the SAT test yet chose NOT to submit my score, while it was nice to be able to take the test and have the choice to send them out or not, I think it ultimately depends on the student. I had the privilege to not send my scores because I believed I had strong enough grades and work behind me to help admissions counselors understand that regardless of the SAT test I was a strong student on my own. This may be different for those students who may not have the best handle on grades but are great test takers. Here is where taking the SAT may benefit them. I think having the choice regardless of the student would help kids make the choice whether or not to take the SAT.

William: Since the pandemic started, many universities realized that SAT/ACT scores were influenced by a student’s socioeconomic status and their access to resources. In my experience as a first-generation low-income student who did not submit any SAT/ACT scores, I would say that it helped my applications for the majority of the public universities I applied to such as UCSD and UC Berkeley. Many public schools went test blind and didn’t look at the scores at all, and it gave me encouragement to apply to top schools because as long as my essays were powerful and strong, I would have an equal playing field as an applicant. However, it’s also important to note that every school is different, and I’ve heard that for many private universities, a large percent of the students who were admitted did submit scores. For any Preuss juniors, I highly recommend researching more about different schools and seeing the divide between who submitted scores and who didn’t for the accepted students into schools you’re interested in.

Preuss Insider: What were the biggest challenges you faced applying for college this year?

Brian: My biggest challenge was trying to realize just how fabulous I am — seriously! Since middle school, people have always just communicated to me that because of my gender expression and sexual orientation, I was weird and unworthy. That negative message really took a toll on me as I was filling out my applications, especially when responding to UC’s Personal Insight Questions. But I fought back by telling myself I’m an awesome person and I’m going to show these colleges just how awesome I am by getting 100% vulnerable and honest. Fast forward to today, I’ve committed to attending UCLA, won a $40,000 scholarship, and am loving myself harder than ever. This is what I want to communicate to you: when applying to these universities, BE YOURSELF IN COLLEGE APPLICATIONS. Just do it (Nike, sponsor me). Seriously, you have nothing to lose. Get raw, emotional, funny, whatever; show the people reviewing your application that not only are you a real, authentic person, but that you are THE person to have at their universities. Make them fall in love with you so hard that if they do choose to reject you, make them feel so terrible for throwing away your application. That was how I was thinking when filling out my applications and I got into 6 colleges :3. Also, know that if universities do reject you, THEY are missing out on you, never the other way around girl.

Helen: The biggest challenges I faced when applying for college this year was having to manage deadlines not only from colleges but also for a school assignment at the same time and finding colleges that not only offer my preferred major but are close enough to home so that I could come back anytime.

Christopher: My biggest challenge when applying to colleges this year was not being in person. Since I started at Preuss, I was continuously told that Preuss would be there guiding me through the college process yet when time came, we were all at home and I was not able to get the physical 1 on 1 I expected. While I did have the staff at my disposal it was not the same as going into the office and getting immediate answers, I did have to wait because of their email overflow, which stressed them and I out. Another thing was filling out financial information, but as the first of 7 kids, it was hard to know what to put in where and what is really expected. I had to do it all at home so that also contributed to some minor lag on college applications.

William: My biggest challenge I faced applying to college this year was shifting from writing essays in class to writing personal essays that were supposed to showcase my intellectual curiosity, passions, and who I was as a person. There was a lot of fear and pressure to write the “perfect” essay, but since I didn’t know what a perfect essay looked like. I followed my gut and decided to just write the truth about my life. I changed my mindset from fear-based motivation to goal-oriented motivation, which made a huge difference. Because scaring yourself with “what ifs” will only affect your mental health and waste energy. No school or future is worth more than your mental health. So instead, I asked myself what I wanted out of college, which was an education, and I followed through with the idea that I was going to get a great education regardless of where I end up throughout my whole application process. I have to say, my biggest advocates during this time have to be Preuss teachers, alumni, and my support network. Although I felt alone at times, reaching out to Preuss alumni for help or just to talk was the biggest difference between feeling alone and feeling supported, and having a whole community behind my back. So when Preuss teachers say use your resources and support network, definitely reach out to Preuss alumni, because who else to get advice from than someone who’s been in the same position as you?

Preuss Insider: How did you cope with the stress of waiting for college admissions decisions?

Brian: When waiting for the universities to get back to you, there really is nothing you can do about the decision. But don’t waste that time just… waiting. Use it on things that are really important for keeping your spot at a college: your grades and scholarships. That was how I coped with the stress of waiting. I simply distracted myself with homework and filling out scholarship applications. And then whenever I felt drained from doing this, I would then go skating, reward myself with boba, and practice self-love. Really take full advantage of this time period. You have a lot of time doing these things, but time passes by fast in senior year. At least for me it did.

Helen: When I was waiting for college admissions decisions it was really useful to have people to talk to whether it be friends or teachers.

Christopher: To cope with the stress of college admissions I let go of all expectations and forgot about them. I know it may be hard, but do your best and apply, once it’s over, direct your energy towards school so in case of a “yes” you now have amazing mid-year reports. But also understand that you will get no’s and yes’s. I was constantly working two jobs so it was easy for me to forget I applied at all. Another thing is to trust yourself. As a student it is your responsibility to grade yourself and do not let these college admissions determine your worth. Just because you got rejected here or there, it DOES NOT mean you are not good enough. If anything it was probably a snobby white school full of racist, and we are not here for that. Again, just work hard and trust! Goodluck!

William: I feel like the whole thing comes down to mindset. I practice staying in the moment with mindfulness exercises, and after submitting my college applications, I set my mindset at, “I’m not going to wait anxiously for a college decision that I have no control over.” At the end of the day, I did everything I could’ve done in my application. And since I poured my blood sweat and tears into my application, I knew that my application reflected me the “best” way it could’ve, and there was nothing I could do or worry about that could change my decision. So if a school didn’t accept me, that means that then we were not a match, and they don’t deserve my time anymore. And if I was accepted, it means that a school listened to my story, and wanted me as a student, making it a perfect match. Like how Dr. Weber described it, just because one path closes, another path will always open. The end goal is to get an education, and I will get that no matter what since I applied to many safety schools (schools I knew I had a higher chance to get into). So when each decision came out, I just saw it as a new opportunity that opened and was excited to begin planning for the next chapter in my life: going to a university.