The college application process can be one of the most daunting experiences a high schooler can go through. To me, it felt like everything I had done in high school had built up to the moment where I would actually start my application and submit it. Coming from an immigrant household and being first-generation, the college was the expectation from my parents. For some people, this also means being on your own through the whole process. They may not know where to start or if they are doing anything right. 

I was grateful enough to have an amazing college advising and counseling team in my high school and also be a part of a college readiness program for low-income minority students all throughout high school. They had supported me every step of the way, starting from my freshmen year. When the second semester of my junior year had begun, college was all I heard from my program and my high school. My program had provided me with free SAT prep from the Princeton Review. I understand that this is something that not everyone is able to afford or have the opportunity to take part in. If it was not for my program, I would have struggled to afford the books and tests. I encourage those who are in this position to seek out opportunities in your high school and your communities for test prep resources. A lot of colleges during this time have gone test-optional, meaning that the other aspects of your application really need to shine, like your college essay and personal statement.

In addition to SAT prep, my program had my peers and I brainstorm ideas for a personal statement. In some ways, writing your personal statement is harder than taking a three-hour exam. I remember not knowing where to start. How was I supposed to write my entire life story and prove that I am worthy enough to be accepted to the top colleges in the country in 650 words or less? I was told that the personal statement portion was important in bringing your application to life and show college admissions officers an authentic version of yourself. I ended up doing three versions of a personal statement before submitting my final one. It was excessive but I say this to tell you all that it is a process. When it comes to writing, it cannot be done in one go, especially when it is about you. Your personal statement will often push you to be vulnerable to a group of strangers but as long as you have supportive people around you, it will get easier after the first couple of drafts. 

The last portion of the application I would like to touch on is deciding on what schools to apply to. I highly encourage you all to start early researching college and if you can to visit colleges. Many colleges offer high school students fly-in programs before applying to the school and it can really help you figure out what type of environment you see yourself in. Visiting schools can also help you write your supplements and add a personal touch to show colleges you are interested in. 

Thinking back to November 2018, I was actually done with the college application process. I ended up only applying to college in New York City and applied Early Decision to Barnard College, knowing that that was my dream college and where I wanted to spend the next four years if given the opportunity. My biggest piece of advice is to start early and take the process one step at a time. Surrounding yourself with supportive people truly helps. Seek out assistance from your high schools. That is what they are there for even during these times. 

You may feel like the last semester of your junior year and the first semester of your senior year will consist of having to juggle high school while transitioning to a brand new chapter of your life. Take it one step at a one and get ahead of the game. This will help you not feel as overwhelmed when deadlines for college come about. This process comes with a lot of major decision making but you will get through it and be on the other side of things. 

Good luck! You got this!