Sacred Heart Cathedral's student-run newspaper. We've got issues.

The Emerald

Sacred Heart Cathedral's student-run newspaper. We've got issues.

The Emerald

Sacred Heart Cathedral's student-run newspaper. We've got issues.

The Emerald

Senior College Application Experiences

Sam Wai ’25
Seniors, Eric Huynh ‘24 and Nicholas Lew ‘24, modeling their common applications.

With the 2023-2024 college application cycle coming to a close, the Emerald asked 16 seniors questions on SHC Textbook Marketplace about their experience going through the college application process. Whether you are a junior who is looking for the best ways to handle the rapidly coming application season or a lowerclassman wondering how they can get a jumpstart on college preparations, these tips and useful insights can help!


How many colleges did you apply to? (Sam Wai ’24)

Would you recommend applying to that many colleges (or more/less)? Why or why not?

“I think the amount I applied to was perfect – however I knew what I was looking for which I know might not be the case for everyone. I think applying to a ton can be incredibly draining, so be mindful [of] how much work it will require!” – Alma Larson ‘24 (applied to 1-5 colleges)

“Applying to around 11 is a good number because you can feel good getting some acceptances from [safety schools], while also having room to really work on applications for your top colleges.” – Theo Halladay ‘24

“I think it depends on the type of application. Many of mine were UCs or CSUs which share one application so it was less work (same amount of work for seven schools). Also, some of my schools had no supplements which meant I could just submit my Common App with no extra work. I recommend adding schools you are interested in to your Common App early on because it makes sure your letters of recommendation get sent, and you don’t have to apply if you run out of time.” – Liv Kirkeby ’24 (applied to 25 colleges)

“It really depends on what type of colleges you apply to. If you apply to relatively few but they are reasonable to get into, [that] is fine. But if you apply to many prestigious colleges, it’s fine to apply to many.” – Daniel Tabaloc ‘24 (applied to 6-10 colleges)

“Apply [to] more if your major is competitive (e.g. engineering, biochem, STEM in general) and/or if you can get fee waivers. I applied to 17 colleges for engineering and I don’t regret the time spent writing all of them because I know my chances of getting in are limited. Even if your SAT/ACT scores, GPA, and extracurriculars are good, there are […] many applicants like you, so don’t lay all of your eggs in one basket and apply to just a few universities/colleges. It’s always worth having more than one choice in the end.” – Kat Leong ‘24


About how frequently did you visit SHC’s college counselors per semester (starting junior year)?

When did you start looking into colleges, scholarships, programs, etc?

“I started to look into colleges in the end of my junior year, making sure to get a basic list before the start of summer so that I could start working on essays over summer/begin to submit in the beginning of the school year.” – Matthew Spillane ’24

“I looked into colleges, scholarships, and programs way before senior year. I recommend applying early because it gives more ways to improve and grow in terms of making your applications, resumes, and character stronger.” – Eric Huynh ‘ 24

“I started looking into college at the end of sophomore year, as I was planning to take more advanced classes in junior year to better prepare for college. Around the same time, I started preparing for the SAT and taking digital tours of colleges. You should start looking at scholarships at the end of junior year at the very latest because, like all things college-related, they are insanely competitive. Likewise, start applying for summer programs and internships to better your chances of getting into your major and get good experience working.” – Kat Leong ‘24


What would you say was the most challenging part of the application process (e.g. essays, timing, etc.)?


“The most challenging part of the application process to me was writing the essays. I needed to find something that made me stand out, while also showing the school what kind of person I am.” – Alexis Hall ‘24

“The Common App Essay and writing in general. It’s difficult to find a complex idea and also feel confident in what you write.” – Alma Larson ‘24

“Supplements were really tedious, and when I did too many over a period of time, I felt really burnt out and unproductive.” – Liv Kirkeby ‘24

“The stress after submitting when you just have to wait.” – Magnolia Mulvihill ‘24

Were there any programs in SHC or outside of SHC that helped you with your college application process? If yes, which ones?

“I enjoyed going to the summer workshops provided by the college advisors to get a head start on college applications and start brainstorming the essays.” – Vivian Tran ‘24

“Ms. Apablasa is the best!” – Matthew Spillane ‘24

“I greatly recommend having teachers review your work. They don’t necessarily have to be English teachers, too—Mr. Rocha helped me tremendously when I was applying to my early action schools. Websites online like College Essay Guy and Collegevine will also help you formulate good essays and find what percentile marks you need to have better chances getting into certain colleges.” – Kat Leong ‘24

What’s something you wish you knew before you applied?

“Common app essay[s] and UC PIQs have different criteria. Common app essays typically want a story, while the UCs want a straightforward answer.” – Nathaniel Gee ‘24

“CSUs and UCs don’t need a letter of recommendation from a teacher.” – Wyatt Hansen ‘24

“Knowing the format about the essays/activities section and realizing that they care more about quality over quantity.” – Julianne Tang ‘24

“Something I wish I knew was [that] the CSU application had no essay. I was stressing about doing an essay, but I never need[ed] to write one” – Colin Woo ‘24

“I wish I knew about all the scholarships I could apply to.” – Alexis Hall ‘24

“How much work supplementals would require. While you submit an overall essay to all your schools, most schools require a 250 word small essay answering a question. Some have up to 5 of these and all are different from each other meaning you need to write a lot of additional paragraphs.” – Alma Larson ‘24

Are there any tips you would like to share for the application process?

“Some advice I’d like to share are trying to brainstorm, outline and possibly even trying to create a first draft for your essays in the summer so you could worry about it less during the school year. Also, I’d recommend meeting with your college advisors a lot because it does help meeting up with someone who you could express your questions and worries about college. They are there for help and support [in] this challenging process.” – Vivian Tran ‘24

“Don’t do applications last minute and always keep up with tasks.” – Nicholas Lew ‘24

“Start in the summer! You don’t have to finish in the summer but having even just a plan coming into senior year makes the entire process less draining and stressful. If you take harder classes, the application process in the summer helps you transition into school easier and you can actually focus on your grades and sports.” – Alma Larson ‘24

“Start early and just write SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter if you won’t use it in the end; it really helps to just write a lot out and then you can delete and refine but you are more likely to write down good ideas if you write a LOT. The more ideas you write, the more good ideas come out, even if the majority aren’t amazing.” – Liv Kirkeby ‘24

“Start looking into schools over the summer. Hone in on 5 schools that you would love to go to. If some of those have early decisions or early action, choose your first option and apply early.” Wyatt Hansen ‘24

“People put more stress and anxiety on this process than what is needed. You are going to be okay.” – Theo Halladay ‘24


The Emerald hopes these insights into seniors’ college application experiences will help everyone getting ready for their own application process. Don’t forget to take advantage of SHC’s incredible college counselors and resources to pave the way toward a higher education future!

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