High Stakes: The Race Begins

High Stakes: The Race Begins

Illustration by Spencer Klink '20.

The Sporty Scientist: Mary*

As a varsity athlete, Mary ’19 devotes the majority of her time toward after school practices and weekend tournaments. But even though her extracurricular options were limited by her commitment to athletics, her academic interests were not: she soon discovered a passion for science, especially environmental science. Mary thinks her long-term commitment in high school to her main extracurriculars will differentiate her from other applicants.

However, as she enters the college process, Mary has decided to prioritize her interest in science over her commitment to her sport. Mary, whose parents are both in the medical field, is considering attending medical school in the future. Due to the rigor of pursuing a pre-med path, she has decided against continuing to play her sport in college.

“Overall, I’ve decided that I don’t want to play anymore because, especially if I was to go pre-med, I would have no time to do other things,” Mary said. “When I imagine myself in college, I imagine myself participating in a bunch of different things and chilling as opposed to waking up at 5 a.m. and lifting.”

Mary visited 11 schools over spring break junior year and ultimately came to the conclusion that she didn’t want to go to a school in a rural area.

“There was the initial exercise that had us imagine our dream college, and I imagined a tiny school in the middle of nowhere,” Mary said. “But after visiting colleges, I genuinely don’t want to go to that kind of school.”

Other than that, Mary is open to applying to any type of school and said she does not care much about the size of the school or whether it is on the East or West Coast. One thing her parents won’t let her compromise on, however, is school reputation.

“My entire list has been based on my parents’ approval,” Mary said. “It was definitely very frustrating in the beginning. But I later became more confident with my options and just was happy with where I was looking at, which also went along with me just doing more research [about colleges].”

This summer, with the help of her brother and parents, Mary has been able to narrow her list down to Ivy League Schools, UC schools and a variety of other competitive schools on the East Coast.

 

The Artistic Activist: Ashley*

Ashley ’19 is a leader both on and off campus. On campus, she’s an affinity group leader; off campus, she’s involved in youth politics and community activism. Because of her passion for social justice, Ashley hopes to study political science or legal studies in college and ultimately pursue a career in politics.

Ashley is also a performer and has participated in improvisation and dance, as well as acted in the Playwrights’ Festival.

“An important factor for me is definitely performing arts,” Ashley said. “Even if I don’t major in it, just having some sort of program that I can participate in is important for me in a college.”

Ashley would like to attend a college with a tight-knit student body and a strong sense of school spirit. After visiting the University of Chicago, a school she expected to like as a junior, she decided against applying because she could not feel a strong sense of community on campus.

Most of the schools Ashley is considering are located outside of California, though she has decided to apply to the University of Southern California after visiting it this summer. Ashley is also interested in applying to Ivy league schools such as Yale and Columbia.

Ashley’s biggest concern going into the application process is the strength of her transcript, especially because of her struggles with mental health during sophomore and junior year.

“My mental health affected my grades, and that’s going to, unfortunately, affect where I go,” Ashley said. “Doors are going to close.”

Ashley is also considering taking a gap year before she starts college.

“I am very passionate about social justice stuff and performing, like musical theater, [but] I still don’t know who I am as a person,” Ashley said. “I think it’s strange. It’s kind of crazy to me how I’m so young and having to make these decisions that are going to determine the entire path of my life in the future.”

 

Charismatic Captain: Cody*

Cody ’19 is passionate about connecting with others. As a prominent student leader on campus, both with regard to the community and athletic groups, he values getting to know and communicating with those around him.

Cody wants to attend a small school so he can get to know the students at his prospective college. However, his ideal school would also have a vibrant social life in addition to strong academic opportunities. Despite his initial expectations, Cody decided not to apply to Kenyon College, which is located rural Ohio, because of how isolated the campus was from any major cities or attractions.

One of the schools that Cody felt fit his ideal image was Pitzer, a member of the Claremont consortium, which is a group of seven selective liberal arts colleges. Its liberal arts approach to learning would allow him to fully pursue his academic interests, literature and language.

“I just like the idea of language and international language,” Cody said. “English for me is completely subjective, and there are a lot of right answers. I am somebody who likes to express myself on paper, and I like to talk a lot. In English, being able to be in a class where conversation is promoted, is something that is really important to me.”

As a varsity athlete, Cody is still open to committing to a school for his sport, preferably as an early decision applicant. However, although he would like to play at a Division 1 college, he also hopes to have a well-rounded college experience, involving sports, social events and academic rigor.

 

The Musical Mastermind: Mitchell*

Mitchell ’19 spent the summer playing music at two different summer camps in two different states. During the school year, he is just as busy, performing in multiple musical ensembles and writing his own songs. Mitchell has been heavily involved in the school’s music program for years and looks forward to pursuing music in college as well.

“I’m looking for a college with at least a strong creative presence, if not a music program,” Mitchell said. “The college process is going to be a little bit tough because I’m thinking about studying music as an academic subject, so maybe majoring in music.”

In addition to music, Mitchell enjoys studying history as both an academic and personal interest. For example, outside of school, Mitchell has been researching his family history and genealogy.
“I like history because it connects the past to the present,” Mitchell said. “You can sort of understand the world around you in a different way.”

Mitchell’s top choice music school is the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, in part because it offers a Popular Music major.

However, although Mitchell is seriously considering studying music in college, he is still open to applying to a wide variety of schools, including liberal arts colleges like Wesleyan University. He is also interested in applying to Northwestern University because of its quarter system and mixture of both a liberal arts and pre-professional education.

Because USC does not have any early application programs, Mitchell says his greatest concern going into the process is determining whether he is willing to commit to another school early decision.

*Names have been changed

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