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  • Writer's pictureIvy Tan

A Senior’s Perspective: Applying Insight to College Admissions

Updated: Jan 19

By Ivy Tan, Clarion Staff Reporter

The corridors of academia echo with the whispered anxiety of high school students, each grappling with a significant rite of passage: the college application process. 

A diverse array of experiences, sentiments, and pragmatic choices define this critical juncture in students' lives. The college application process is a narrative woven with threads of stress, introspection, and strategic storytelling. It is natural to feel the weight of the future in every word penned, every detail considered. 

As we navigate this practical odyssey, let us appreciate the diversity of choices, recognizing that each student's path is a narrative waiting to unfold beyond the confines of a single application form. The truth lies not only in securing admission but in the lifelong exploration of knowledge and self-discovery that follows. We are all here together – what's the worry?

Jenny Huang, a student among us, openly shares the weight of stress that college applications have placed on her shoulders, particularly the task of crafting those tricky Personal Insight Questions (PIQs). With 8 prompts that range from personal challenges to questions relying on heavy thought about past experiences.

"College apps have been stressing me out, especially with writing the PIQs. But I'm glad we have teachers and resources to help us out," Huang said.

Her sentiment highlights the collective struggle among students. It's clear that many seniors are riding the same wave of anxiety. The struggle is real, and it's okay to feel the pressure. 

Kennedy English teacher K.C. McCarthy encourages seniors during application season. University of California requires applicants to answer 4 out of 8 Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) in the application process.

But here's the silver lining, we're not alone in this: Our teachers and various resources are here to help us navigate through the twists and turns of the application process. Shedding light on this dreadful journey we're all undertaking, where challenges are met with resilience, but the support around us becomes a helpful compass to steer through the complexities of college applications. In this shared experience, we find strength and assurance that we're not merely weathering this storm alone but as a united front.

Senior Joshel Uclaray captures a vibe that many relate to: "College apps kinda feel like job interviews." 

It is a tightrope walk between staying true to who you are and putting on a bit of a show to match what colleges are looking for. Uclaray sheds light on the endeavor to showcase one's best self on these applications. It serves as a reminder that it's completely normal to feel nerves when trying to present your most authentic and impressive self. In this challenging journey of college applications, her acknowledgment implies that we're all sailing in the same boat. So, if you've ever felt the weight of this experience, remember it's a shared sentiment among your peers.

Kristen Lew introduces a refreshing perspective amid the college application hustle, expressing, "I feel like it's a great way to show who you are inside and outside of school." Her optimism injects a positive tone into the topic, emphasizing the potential for genuine self-expression within the confines of the application process. Kristen's viewpoint encourages us to see beyond the stress and nerves commonly associated with this journey. Yes, it's undoubtedly a demanding process, but Kristen hints at an overlooked benefit, an opportunity for deep self-reflection. Amidst the chaos, these applications become a canvas for us to ponder and articulate who we are as individuals. This insight transforms the application process from merely a stress-inducing task to a reflective exercise, prompting us to consider not only our academic achievements but also the essence of our character. It's a reminder that, amid the pressure, the applications also provide a space for personal growth.

Kennedy Senior Serstin Miles, reviewing the Personal Insight Questions. PIQs were due to UCs by November 30.

Sherston Miles injects a positive twist into the discourse, expressing, "I feel like PIQs really give me the opportunity to express my experiences." Amidst the stress and pressure of applications, Sherston sees the PIQs as a unique chance for self-expression. This perspective highlights the silver lining in the application process, emphasizing the avenue it provides for sharing personal experiences and narratives beyond grades and achievements.

Andrew Peterson's acknowledgment of the undeniable stress in the college application process is a sentiment that resonates with many, stating, "College applications are definitely stressful for sure. You have to get everything right, but at the end of the day, it's worth it." In recognizing the trials embedded within this journey, Andrew's perspective sheds light on the demanding nature of the application process. Yet, his concluding sentiment is a beacon of optimism. Despite the stress and the pursuit of perfection, Andrew emphasizes that the eventual payoff makes the trials worthwhile. This insight offers a grounded perspective, a reminder that while the road may be challenging, the destination holds the promise of success.

Stay positive and avoid overwhelming yourself with negative thoughts and stress. The pursuit of your dream school is undoubtedly arduous, but Andrew's words encourage us to navigate it with a resilient spirit and a focus on the potential rewards that lie beyond the stressors.

In the realm of college applications, Samuel Oen fearlessly unveils the apprehensions many of us share about the formidable Personal Insight Questions and other application essays. "PIQs and other college essays we write are quite intimidating in how much impact they'll have on the rest of our lives," Samuel candidly shares. The weight of his words captures the collective sentiment among high school students, a recognition that every sentence, every word, holds the potential to shape our destinies.

Diego Torres Melendrez sheds light on the value of the UC PIQs, stating, "I feel that the UC PIQs are a good way to describe why you’re a good candidate to those universities. They offer you different ways to express your experiences so you don’t feel limited, and I think it’s perfect how it is." His positive spin on the prompts opens up the chance for students to paint a full picture of themselves when shooting their shot at prospective universities.

Anna Marie Owyoung captures the essence of the current struggle, acknowledging, "It has been really stressful lately, especially with PIQ deadlines coming up. I think we’re all trying to maintain our grades during this difficult time. Teachers are still assigned a lot of work too. It's also scary that these essays determine our future and what we’ll be doing for the rest of our life." Anna’s reflection encapsulates the current challenges faced by students, juggling deadlines, maintaining grades, and grappling with the weight of future decisions. Her words resonate with the collective experience of navigating through this critical juncture.

Nhat Ha Dang offers practical advice for tackling the PIQs "I’d say for doing the PIQs be personal and specific as much as you could. Don’t over complicate it and make sure to talk about how you overcome the challenges in your life, and how it helps you to become better because that’s literally the whole point of PIQs. Also, keep the focus on yourself and choose the prompts that are best fit for you." Nhat Ha Dang's guidance provides a roadmap for fellow students, emphasizing the importance of personal reflection, simplicity, and alignment with individual experiences when navigating the often-intimidating landscape of PIQs.

As we embark on the journey of college applications, many of us may set our sights on California's renowned state colleges and universities. Applying to these institutions requires careful consideration and thorough preparation.

A kennedy senior looking up the UC application. University of California requires applicants to answer 4 out of 8 Personal Insight Questions (PIQs) in the application process.

Firstly, students should familiarize themselves with the specific admission requirements and deadlines for each institution, for those in state the due date is November 30th. Whether it's the University of California (UC) system or the California State University (CSU) system, crafting a compelling personal statement and ensuring strong academic performance are crucial. Additionally, participation in extracurricular activities, community service, and showcasing unique talents can significantly enhance an application. The application process may also involve submitting standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, and letters of recommendation. 

Beyond the traditional route of four-year institutions, community colleges stand as a valuable alternative, providing diverse educational opportunities. These colleges offer a more flexible and cost-effective pathway for those seeking higher education. Community colleges grant students the chance to explore academic interests, refine career goals, and build a strong academic foundation before transferring to a four-year institution if desired. This alternative approach not only allows for a smoother transition into higher education but also provides an affordable option, reducing the financial burden often associated with traditional universities. The supportive environment of community colleges fosters smaller class sizes, personalized attention, and a focus on practical skills development. Moreover, many community colleges have established transfer agreements with four-year institutions, streamlining the process for students aiming to continue their education. In embracing the option of community colleges, we acknowledge that success takes various forms, and each student's unique journey is a narrative worthy of celebration and support. 

It all depends on where your journey takes you!

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