Tell Your Story: Advice from B2A's Head Counselors on College Admissions


Summer is almost here -- which means it’s almost time to start working on your college applications, juniors! Yes, it’s best to get your applications done the summer before your senior year so that you can focus, stress-free, on your last year of high school.

Haven’t started yet? Don’t panic! Our three Head Gateway Counselors, experts in getting students into the colleges of their dreams, have some words of wisdom for you.

Kendall Forbes: Good essays are a must; go outside of your comfort zone for summer activities.

There is nothing I love more than getting to know my students and helping them realize that they are each unique and have an interesting story to share. Seeing my students satisfied and excited to submit their applications is a great feeling.

For seniors applying to colleges, the biggest tip I can give is to be thoughtful in writing your essays. By the time seniors are applying to schools, there is little control or room for improvement in terms of grades, test scores, and rank, so the area that you can control and the way you can really stand out is through your essays. Writing an essay should be a process. The most successful essays portray students in a thoughtful, reflective, and humble light.

For freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, my biggest piece of advice is to do something unexpected or out of your comfort zone during your summer vacation. I am not a fan of expensive/fancy summer programs; instead, I would rather see a student get a job at a local yogurt shop or car wash--think of the experiences and interpersonal skills you will gain through hard work and unexpected interactions! Summer is also the perfect time to focus on getting your SAT or ACT score up without being distracted by your class schedule. Check out Berkeley2 Academy’s test prep services to see how we can help you reach your goal score!

Amy Shin: Highlight experiences that are not traditionally academic; give yourself more credit.

I really enjoy getting to know the students and talking to them about their accomplishments and experiences during high school and what they aspire to do in the future. I love being able to help students take their individual and unique stories and encapsulate their personalities into the applications.

My personal tip for students is to not diminish any of their accomplishments or personal experiences. When I first meet students, they are usually eager to share their academic accomplishments, but they usually don't highlight experiences they've had outside of school--such as hobbies, trips, other challenges. I think a lot of students feel like if they weren't awarded a physical trophy, medal, or title, it doesn't have much value, but as a counselor, I see these as hidden gems. It's in these small anecdotes and experiences where I get to really see a student's passion and character. It's always where we find interesting and unique stories for their applications.

Early on, you should spend quality time brainstorming for what could be "hidden gems" you can add to your application and write about in your essays. This can be really scary at first because you have to explore different tangents, but don't be afraid to delve deeper.

Miranda Fisher: Don't compare your college admissions process to that of your peers; determine what is best for you and be confident!

I love getting to know my students! So much of the high school experience is focused on numbers: GPAs, ranks, test scores. But when you finally start to apply to colleges, the emphasis is on who you are as a person. I feel so honored to get to know my students and help them through this crucial time in their lives! I also really love how I get to help demystify the college admissions process, which is so complicated and confusing.

The most important thing I can say is that your application has to be about you. Take the time in the beginning to make sure you know yourself really well and are confident in who you are. What stands out about you might not be your science fair wins or your SAT scores; it might be something like your compassion or your sense of humor. Show off whatever’s great about you!

That also means you shouldn’t worry too much about what other people are writing about in their essays. Your friend might have written a great essay for him, but that doesn’t mean you should try to write the same essay! You need to write something that’s true to who you are. If you’ve put in the work to find colleges that are good matches for you, then they’ll see from your essays that you belong there!

All revved up and ready to start your applications? We’re here to help you all along the way! Whether it’s one-on-one guidance through our all-inclusive Gateway program or hourly assistance, our counselors have got you covered with our College Admissions Services.

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