Student Stories - Education

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

Application Identity:

  • Gender and ethnicity? Female; Korean

  • Any particular “hooks”? (student athlete, legacy, etc.) N/A

  • What did your application focus on? Any academic subjects, extracurriculars, etc. in particular? UC essay: life in Korea, Youth Community Service, Early Childhood Development class. Common App: Youth Community Service

  • What are your plans for next year? If you’re planning on attending a college, what’s your school and intended area of study? University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign; BS in Elementary Education and possible minor/endorsement in teaching ESL.

What was the general composition of your college list? How many schools did you apply to? How many reaches, matches, and safeties were on your list? Did you feel like your list was balanced?

I applied to a total of 16 schools, including UC’s and CSU’s. I had 4 reaches, 5 matches, and 7 safeties. However, looking back at my list now, I’m realizing that many of my matches are also safeties. I honestly didn’t feel like my list was balanced. I really underestimated myself when I was searching for colleges. I thought that some of my safeties were matches, while they were really safeties. I do regret not applying to more reaches. Also considering that I was trying to go into a major in education, I really didn’t need to apply to so many UC’s because only 2-3 of the schools have a major related to education.

What was your general application timeline? When did you start your applications? How did you manage your workload?

I started my applications a week after junior year. Yes, this might be early for some people. I was working during the summer, so I knew I had to start early. I made a summer plan for myself, setting up my personal “due dates” for having an outline, rough draft, and final draft. I met up with my friend in person every 2 weeks to discuss my essay and talk about it, so before I meet him, I would plan and write a rough draft that he can look over online and give me feedback before we meet. Because I was working every weekday of the summer, I worked on my essay mostly on the weekend and around 2-3 hours during the weekday.

Who helped you throughout the application process? Parents, school, private counselor? What resources did you find the most helpful?

I had a recent high school graduate friend who helped me edit my UC essays, and for my common app essay, I had a private essay teacher who helped me organize my thoughts and edited 3-4 times. Also, I had another student look over one of my UC essays, but I didn’t enjoy how she edited my essay, so I ended up not using her as a resource. As for the rest of my essays and supplementals, I didn’t have anyone except my family read it over and had no help for them.

I found the resources I had helpful to a certain extent. Sometimes, there will be times when what someone edits for you might not be the style you want your essay to be. Personally, I really cared about preserving my voice and style so that essay readers can really know what kind of person I am. When that happens, I change those edits so that they can fit my style or won’t make changes to preserve my voice. The student who took a look at one of my UC essays changed my voice completely, so I scrapped most if not all of her edits.

I think the most helpful point working with a friend and teacher was that I can talk to them about my different ideas and approaches, and they can help me organize those thoughts and turn it into an essay format.

What are your top tips for college applicants? What advice do you wish you’d known while you were going through the application process?

Definitely start early for your essays! It will save you once school starts in the fall because senior year will be busy. If you are planning on applying to UC’s or any school on the common app, at least start thinking about what you want to write about and have a plan. Also, if you know you are going to be applying ED or EA to some schools, take a look at the prompts as well and brainstorm. Also, if you are working with someone for your essay, take everything with a grain of salt. Just because someone edits your essay in one way does not mean that you have to completely follow through. This is ultimately YOUR essay. You don’t want your essay to sound like it came from someone different.

Some advice I wish I’d known while I was going through the application process would actually be having someone to tell me which schools should be my reach, match, and safety. I know that if you go to a college counseling center, they usually tell you where you should apply, and throughout the application process, I definitely had times where I had someone to tell me where to apply. But also, I had really bad experiences at some of the college counseling centers, so I refused to attend one.

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