The Common Application

by Eva Shimkus, Features Editor
graphic by Emily Zhang

Natalie* plans to study theater design and technology in hopes of becoming an educator of backstage theater work. 

“[I enjoy] building things, painting [and] doing lights and sound. I want to potentially focus on technical direction,” she said. 

While she would prefer to attend a school with an urban campus, she said she has been looking into rural campuses, which have stronger backstage theater programs. 

“It’s weird because generally theater is very involved with city life because that’s where a lot of theaters are,” she said. “A lot of the schools that I’ve found are kind of in the middle of nowhere. I think I [would] put aside my city desires to go there.”

Natalie’s current list of 14 prospective colleges includes Syracuse University and Rutgers University.

Although she does not want to be too close to home, Natalie said she is looking to stay in the Northeast because she is accustomed to the weather and culture.

She said she has had trouble getting to know schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s a lot harder to say if I’ve never actually been in the school and talked to students,” she said. “When I’m watching the information sessions, all the schools blend together.” 

Beginning the school year, Natalie is most excited to take AP Studio Art and AP Physics, though she said she is nervous about her preparation for the latter. 

“I’m a little stressed about APs because I didn’t take any APs last year, and I’m taking three this year,” she said. 

Since taking the SAT in December and having her art portfolio reviewed by schools, Natalie said she has shifted her focus to beginning writing essays and filling out the Common Application. 

“I’ve started filling out the common app so I won’t have to do so much later,” she said. “I’m just trying to get as much research as I can before school starts because I know I’m going to be a lot busier.”

Amy* said that over the summer she participated in a range of activities involving social justice and activism, which she plans to be involved in during college.

“I mostly did it with a focus on having more experience and more knowledge for future activism and future jobs,” she said. 

Amy said she is looking for a school with a supportive educational environment.

“I’m looking for a school with a good social system, [meaning] people who are kind, supportive and fun,” she said. 

Amy said that a school with a lack of accessibility or an exorbitantly high tuition would deter her from applying.

Interested in a school with an urban campus, Amy said that she is applying to about 11 schools located on the East and West Coasts. 

“I’m applying to a couple of Ivies, UCLA, UC Berkeley [and] probably USC, as well as Northeastern, Penn State, UMass and a couple of colleges in New York,” she said.

Though she hasn’t yet taken the SAT due to canceled testing dates, Amy said she is prepared to begin the application process.

“I know it’s going to be a stressful time,” she said. “Even though the [school] structure is different now, it might not necessarily be a bad thing because it’s giving me more time to focus on college applications.”

Amy said that if she could change the college application process, she would reduce its reliance on standardized testing.

“Many students have a lot of potential, but they get anxious or don’t do well on standardized testing,” she said.

In order to minimize her stress, Amy said that this year she will focus on connecting with friends.

“I’m definitely going to take some time with self-care, movie nights and hanging out with friends,” she said. “I’m going to have a support system, prioritize self care and have a balance of social life and work.”

Beginning senior year, Kurt* said he is most excited for his electives, independent study for screenwriting and personal finance, as he plans to pursue a career in these fields. 

“I’m hoping to get a starter job in a marketing firm [and] then do some writing because it’s really fun for me,” he said. 

This summer, he helped out his parents, who own a stationary and gift website, working in production. 

“I help sell products, which is a really fun side of business because marketing is really cool, using human technology against people,” he said.

Not wanting to go too far away from home, Kurt has been looking for schools on the East Coast, in particular those with larger student bodies. 

“They’re always so chaotic in the best ways,” he said. “Normally, large crowds are in the big cities, and big cities have good food, lots of places to explore and adventures.” 

Kurt said, however, that he would be willing to make compromises for schools that offer strong creative marketing programs. 

“Whether it’s more of a hardcore study campus or a party campus, as long as I’m getting to do what I want in my classes, I’m fine,” he said. “There’s not much that breaks a school for me.”

Right now, Kurt said his top school is Emerson College, which he became interested in after hearing an alumnus speak at a virtual information session.

“Emerson has a really interesting business program where you go to Switzerland for two years and you learn about the local economy and how that relates to marketing and creative marketing,” he said.

Despite the coronavirus, Kurt said he is hoping to make the most out of his senior year. 

“I’m looking to get a really enjoyable experience where I get to learn new things and hang out with my friends,” he said. “It should be at least an interesting experience this year because we’ll be doing a whole new style of learning.”

Anthony*, who runs all three seasons of track, said he is applying to National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III (DIII) colleges. 

“I emailed a couple coaches back at the start of January. From there, we continued conversations and had a couple phone calls getting to know the schools and getting to know the coaches,” he said.

Anthony said that DIII colleges, unlike Division I and Division II schools, do not offer athletic scholarships but do offer prospective student-athletes the opportunity to learn more about their athletics programs during the recruitment process.

“I’ve had opportunities to speak to a couple students on the team, and it’s warmed me up to the schools,” he said. “I was fortunate to be able to visit my top school and talk to the coach, which was really helpful.”

Though informed on college athletics, Anthony said the structure of the fall season remains uncertain.

“The MIAA said that cross country was one of the only low-risk sports, so it looks hopeful that we might have a season,” he said.

Independent of the formal season, Anthony said running will help him manage the stress of senior year.

“For me, running has always been a therapeutic activity,” he said. “If I’m ever up late doing homework, I’ll go for a quick 10-minute run just to get my mind working.”

Anthony said he has not yet decided what he wants to study, so he is looking at schools that would leave his options open. 

“The liberal arts aspect definitely appeals to me. I know the general ideas that I want to study, but I’m not really sure specifically,” he said.

Anthony said his top choices are Bowdoin, Colgate, Middlebury and Tufts. Right now, he said he is refining his applications. 

“It’s stressful, but a little bit exciting,” he said. “It’s what everyone’s been working up to in their 12 years of schooling up until this point.”

*Names changed to protect students’ identities