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The Student Newspaper of Hopkins School

    • Zander Blitzer '18 recalls her own experience with the college process.

Seniors Give College Application Advice

Connor Pignatello '19, Features Editor & Veronica Yarovinsky '20, Assistant Features Editor
The Razor staff interviewed Hopkins seniors about the college process. Below are their responses.
How did you differentiate between all the colleges you visited?

“I took notes and I had a notepad with me wherever I went. If someone was wearing something weird, I would take note of that because the weird things that you see jog your memory and they are things that stand out. It helps you remember what you were feeling and the sentiment you had towards the school when you were there. But also, write down the annoying things about the school and the general education requirements. Also, if you’re generally bored throughout the tour and the info session, take note of that. You can also find out a lot about the school online, but I would recommend to take notes and make weird comments as you go along on the tour. When you’re on the tour, take note of the traditions they have and write those down, because a lot of schools in their supplements will say ‘Why do you want to go here?’ or ‘What are you looking forward to about this school?’ If you can write down a special tradition, or a club they have at this school, or an event that they have every year, that’ll make the admissions officers say ‘this kid did his research, he was paying attention.’”-Declan Goulding

“The best advice I can give for differentiating colleges is taking notes on the tour, information session, and anything else you attend at the school. As much as this seems like a pain in the moment, it’s so helpful to be able to remember details that might make a certain school really unique.” - Zander Blitzer

“I didn’t differentiate between the colleges - that’s why I can’t decide right now.” - Josh Ip

Who should I ask to write my college recommendations?

“You should ask teachers you’re comfortable with, not just teachers that you think would look good [on your college application]. Not teachers that are just helpful on whatever you’re studying, teachers that know you well. Teachers that you get along with and can communicate with.” -Jonathan De León

“Recommendations are scary because they are the one part of the application you can’t really control, but you can control who you ask. Ideally, you want to ask a teacher who you’ve had for a year or more, in a subject you enjoy and do well in. However, this is not to say you should ask the teacher for a class you’re acing if you’re not very interested or engaged in the class- this teacher won’t have much to say besides talking about your grades in the class. You want a recommender who can speak to who you are as a person and thinker, and who can discuss what you can add to a classroom and community.” -Blitzer

“I asked the teachers who knew me the best and hated me the least” -Ip

How important are extracurriculars for the application?

“Community service -- that’s a big one. I put down that I was a Boy Scout, an Eagle Scout actually, and I feel like that helped me.” -Steve Prinz

“Don’t have a bunch of extracurriculars that you don’t really care about, because your extracurriculars will be what you write about in your essays and supplements and whatnot. I had a couple extracurriculars that I was really into, and I was able to focus on those a lot. So, I think they matter, but less is more.” -Goulding

“While I’m not an expert, I think extracurriculars are moderately important for college. Extracurriculars can show colleges what you’re passionate about, and the lengths you are willing to go to commit to those passions.” -Blitzer

“I think that a few extracurriculars that you care a lot about is better than a lot that are just a surface level involvement.” - Karyn Bartosic

What should I write my college essays about?


“Something that’s personal and unique to you. Don’t write something mainstream… write something that’s weird, but cool. I wrote about playing guitar, and that story was unique to me. It was right after Back to School Bash and how at the start it was not very good. My essay was about how things happen, but if you love something enough, you’ll still do it. If you can cite specific instances or a specific event like at Back to School Bash, that will help a lot. You don’t want the same cliche comment that everyone else has, I mean at the end of the day you’re going to have to put a cliche in there, but write about whatever you want. It shouldn’t be a big struggle coming up with ideas for a particular topic that you’re writing about. Write down a bunch of random ideas first, and in all of those bad ideas there’s going to be a good one.” -Goulding

“Someone last year told me ‘There’s an essay in you that you need to write before you can write anything else.’ Write about something that means a lot to you and don’t write something that you think other people want to read about, because colleges can tell if it’s genuine or not.” -Lily Tipton

“Try to make it as interesting as possible, because those people (college admissions officers) read hundreds of essays, if you just have boring stuff like everyone else you won’t be able to differentiate yourself.” - Steve Prinz

“Every year we hear about the amazing college essay someone wrote about their life as a refugee or an octuplet, but the truth is most of us don’t have stories like that. I think the college essay should take one small aspect of your personality or life and expand it to give the reader a window into who you are as a person. It doesn’t have to be a life changing event- it could be a class, a club or a concept. It just has to be important to you.” -Blitzer

“Whatever the prompt, write from the heart and be genuine.” -Bartosic

“Write about what interests you -- I wrote about playing with fire for my Cal Tech essays and experimenting with lemons for my Yale essays and look what happened, [I got in.]” -Ip

What are the advantages of Early Decision and Early Action?

“You have a better chance getting into a school via Early Decision than Early Action because in Early Action you’re not committing, you’re just applying early. In Early Action, you don’t have to make so much of a commitment as Regular Decision, you just have to get your forms in earlier.” -Prinz

“If you know where you want to go, why put all the pressure on yourself and wait so long? For example, at Johns Hopkins, where I’m going, one of the admissions folks told me that they fill up almost half of their class with kids from Early Decision. If you apply Early Decision, you’re setting the stage for what kind of applicants they want to accept. These are the kids they want, whereas in Regular Decision, they’re just filling gaps.” -Goulding

“Early Action and Early Decision are advantageous because you find out in December whether you have been accepted or not. So if you are admitted under the ED program, it’s obviously a huge burden off your shoulders for the rest of the year. Sometimes the early acceptance rates can also be higher than regular acceptance rates, but this is misleading because recruited athletes are counted in the early acceptance pool. Overall, I would recommend applying Early Decision if it’s absolutely your top choice.” -Blitzer
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