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By Tammy Wen, Niles West

As the school year approaches the end of first semester, seniors are currently finishing up college applications. However, there are some who finished long before the deadlines. One of my good friends, BaoTran Le, was one of the early bird applicants. In the interview below, I ask a series of questions regarding her application process. I hope this will serve as an useful reference for future high school seniors and current seniors still working on their applications. Best of luck to you all!

Q: Tell us about yourself. What are your career goals and what is your number one school?

My name is BaoTran Le. My goal is to become a businesswoman and work in that field, where I might open a business or invest (something of that sort). I am planning to major in accounting, and so far, my top school choice is Babson College. This school is located in Massachusetts and it’s the top school for business and entrepreneurship.

Q: What was the overall college application experience like?

The college application was very satisfying to me. It was a little daunting trying to fill out all of the required information (without messing up) and then trying to accurately report my activities since freshman year. In the end, though, it was rewarding to fill in all the spaces they allowed for clubs/extracurricular activities and awards. I have done so many and my four years of suffering from overloading myself paid off.

Q: Did you start early or did you procrastinate?

I started as soon as Common App opened, while I was studying abroad in Ireland. I finished the common app and informational questions before school started. Then, I asked my teachers for recommendations by the end of the first week of school. It was quite early, but it saved me a lot of hassle because I became very involved at school and it would’ve been awful having to compete college apps AND do schoolwork. I felt very accomplished because starting early allowed me to finish early, leaving less to worry about.

Q: What is your advice for future juniors or seniors still doing their applications?

Many people I know have finished by now, but it’s completely okay to still be doing apps. I know some people who feel a lot of pressure because they haven’t finished, but don’t worry about that. Keep powering through; the most difficult part in my opinion was the essay writing, and it’s important to write thoughtfully. Write about what you truly think, and have many people look it over. Don’t continue to procrastinate, do it now!

Q: Did you stress out? If so, what do you recommend for motivation?

I didn’t stress out because I did start pretty early on it. I had time to think about my application and what I would like to write about. I would say if it’s stressful, do some breathing exercises, and motivate yourself. I find it motivating to think about my future; for an example, I’d give myself some space when I am having a writer’s block for a certain essay. When I’m just feeling overwhelmed and lazy (the two are a pretty bad combination), I tell myself I will do 5 minutes of the work. In the end, I will have finished it because I would just get started and would like to finish. Try that, it really works!

Q: Who do you recommend to go to for application help?

For the application, both guidance and college counselors are great for recommendation help. For the writing portion, anybody and almost everybody is helpful. Check out the literacy center, or friends and family. Going to past English teachers is also not a bad idea either.

Q: Do you think the Common Application made applying easier? What do you prefer?

Common app is definitely the easier option. I applied to many schools, and gratefully, I didn’t have to fill the informational part to each application I sent; I just had to do it once. I did apply to U of I in Urbana, and since they aren’t on the Common App, I had to use their application. It was just a hassle because I had to do the information all over again, and I had to type all the classes I’ve ever taken.

Q: How can the college application process be easier?

It would be so much easier if every school is on Common App. (But that’s just me.) I also think that it’s just inconvenient how every school has their own essay. It’s great for common app because the one common app essay applies to every school, but then schools have supplemental essay portions. If all the schools had similar essay topics, it would be much easier to focus on the quality of everyone’s writing instead of just trying to finish every essay.
Also, start on it early. No matter how much you get done, it’s gonna be a big help later on. And even then, the more that gets done, the better it’s gonna be for everyone including rec teachers, counselors, and especially yourself.

Q: How did you get everything done so quickly?

As I’ve said before, I started really early for the application. I had the recs down, and I had my big common app essay looked over multiple times. After I finished, I just started on the essays that were supplements. Feeling overwhelmed, I placed all the essay topics in one Google doc, and found that a few of them were the same. From there, I started knocking the 100-200 word supplements out, and copied and paste them for the schools with the same prompt. After that, I dedicated the times I had free, and every Saturday morning to completing schools’ essays. At one point, my goal was to submit a school application by the end of Saturday every week.

Q: Any last words to help people be more insightful about the process?

It is going to seem very overwhelming in the beginning, and maybe you’re going to want to procrastinate, but don’t! Get started now. Research schools you’re interested in before your junior year in the summer so that you can start on the app. For the seniors who are still submitting apps, keep going! It’s gonna feel great to finally click the submit button. For the seniors who are all finished though, don’t stop there! Make sure you’re looking into your colleges by visiting, scheduling interviews, submitting CSS and watching for FAFSA; most importantly, start looking for scholarships! The college application isn’t limited to just the apps, it’s a marathon comprised of multiple processes and powering through is going to be worth all the effort in the end. Good luck!


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