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My College Application Experience
By Anthony-Michael Harris

I am a senior at Robert F. Kennedy Community High School in New York City, and for the past four years I have been working on various aspects of the college application process. The experience has been quite interesting and at times overwhelming. I have had some ups and downs but I continue to make the best of it. In retrospect I have always wanted to go to college even before I started secondary school. However I wasn’t really sure of the process. I honestly believed that the college application process would not begin until my junior year in high school. However, as soon as I began high school I realized it would begin much sooner.

When I began my first year in high school, my teachers talked about the importance of school and getting a college degree. As a freshman I went on local college tours with the school and I found some of the presentations interesting. However I really didn’t understand the full concept of what was happening aside from going on a school trip. As part of this initial experience, my ninth-grade writing teacher had every student in her class write a sample of a college essay. At first I looked at this experience as being similar to writing a standard essay like I had done in middle school. I wrote the essay and I turned it in to my teacher. After my teacher marked my essay, she returned it to me and told me that what I had written was not acceptable. She did give me tips on improving my essay and she told me to rewrite it, which I did. I went through the process of rewriting this one essay at least five times throughout the year. The process of revision ultimately taught me how to write on the college level.

In the beginning I felt everything I did for my teacher was wrong. I didn’t quite understand the intricacies of the college process at that time. At the end of my ninth-grade year, I finally received a decent grade on the final version of my first college essay. For me it was a worthwhile process and I felt I had completed a major task. However, little did I know that at the end of my first year it was just the beginning of the college application process.

In my sophomore year I continued with my studies and assumed that it was business as usual. Go to school, take mini vacations during the school breaks and go back to school to complete the tasks assigned by my teachers. However as I soon experienced, there would be no real relaxing winter breaks because I would be visiting colleges with my mom. My first college visit with my mother was quite memorable. It was freezing cold and raining. I was not thrilled with this tour since it was self-guided and my mom didn’t really know the lay out of the campus. I also felt uncomfortable with her asking random question to people who were walking on the campus.

We eventually left this particular university and we were off to another one in the freezing rain. The second tour wasn’t as bad since we had a semi-tour guide but I really wasn’t interested in that particular school and the weather seemed to have gotten worse.

During that break I visited five schools in two different states. By the time I got to the fourth school and I had had an opportunity to speak to some of the students, I realized at that moment that college was very different. I began to look at the college experience more seriously. I also realized that this process and the experience itself was going to be a different journey. At that point in my life I began to realize that whatever college I had planned to attend would affect me for the rest of my life. I also knew I would have to try and get into a good college and I decided to explore occupations that were of interest to me.

As my sophomore year ended, I decided to get involved in different summer programs that focused on various types of employment. I wanted to attend programs that also offered the college experience. This summer became another experience that focused on the college application process. My experiences were great and I looked forward to my junior year in high school.

I knew the pressure was on to do the best that I could do now that I was in my junior year. There were state exams, SAT preps and athletic practices, etc. One would assume there might be a little time for a break here and there, However during the school breaks, I was off to visit colleges. The traveling wasn’t bad, but it was hectic.

During this series of college tours I began to differentiate between those colleges I desired to attend and those colleges my parents preferred. “Overwhelming” is an understatement, and I began to feel as if I was running out of time. I also wanted to have an opportunity to participate in some of the programs the colleges of my choice were offering during the summer.

I was able to attend some programs, which gave me more insight into some of the schools I was interested in attending. This summer vacation was not the same as the last. I actually began the application process. At first it wasn’t bad, but then I had deja vu when I began writing the essays. I must admit, I completed all four topics before the start of my senior year and in retrospect I appreciate my writing teacher for her tenacity in getting the freshman class to write their first college essay. I am still rewriting essays to make sure they exemplify my best.

This process has been overwhelming at times, and it is probably the same for most of my peers. Aside from participating in the college visits, informational sessions and tours, there are also the college fairs, open houses, and interviews. There is also the adjustment of a new schedule that begins each year. As a senior my schedule includes some early morning AP classes along with late afternoon varsity fencing practices and matches. There are also the weekend community service activities, additional test prep classes, and commitments to outside organizations. The senior year, which includes the final phases of the college application process, is a bit overwhelming, but I know it’s worth it in the end when you get to attend the college of your choice. 

Just as running in a marathon can be overwhelming and exhausting, the goal is inspiring and in the ultimate analysis, at the finish line, it becomes worthwhile. #



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