Day 7: What everyone should know before applying to college


Annabel Sanz, Feature Editor

From the time freshmen walk through the gates on their first day of a seemingly endless four years, reminders of the college admissions process are relentlessly reinforced each day. If high school is the game, then a college acceptance is the prize at the end. Winning this prize, though, often comes after years of stressful work that culminates in months spent in a confused haze to build the ‘perfect’ college application. For juniors about to go into that very haze, seniors who came out on the other end share the advice that helped them through the process.

Going into high school, countless students have an ideal picture in their minds of where they will end up in four years while others are still trying to figure out what to major in. The first step in applying to college- exploring options- takes place before ever becoming a senior.

“It’s never too early to start researching,” senior Jordan Hale said.

Palmetto offers various opportunities for students to narrow down a list of colleges that appeal to them through visits from colleges during both lunches, the annual college fair and a trip to tour Florida’s state schools. All of these are available for students of all grade levels to see which colleges appeal to them in preparation for selecting which to apply.

By the start of senior year, counselors advise students to have a realistic list that includes safe, fit and reach schools. Researching and visiting different schools allows applicants to determine which schools are the best fit for themselves. Applying to a school that receives inches of snow may sound enticing to a student in the moment, until realizing that they hate the cold.

“Only apply to schools you can picture yourself at,” senior Kayla Spigelman said. “Don’t apply just because your friends are going there.”

Contrary to popular belief, grades remain important each year. Transcripts do reflect final grades earned from freshman to senior year, including any high school level courses taken in middle school which makes consistently performing well a pivotal aspect of any application. Colleges will also weigh SAT and ACT scores heavily when making decisions. Many seniors recommend taking these standardized tests early in junior year in order to have enough time to retake them before applications are due during senior year.

“The best time to take [SAT] subject tests is the same year or right after you take the class,” senior Bo You said.

When building schedules each year, students should keep in mind the requirements necessary to graduate in Miami-Dade County. According to, in order to successfully graduate, students must have completed four English credits, four math credits, three science credits, three social studies credits, one fine arts credit, eight elective credits, one physical education credit and one online course.

“Make sure that you complete all of your graduation requirements early, including FLVS so that you don’t have to worry or stress about having to finish something that you need during senior year,” senior Nicholas Chevallier said.

While most students in high school are prone to procrastinating anything from essays to multiple-grade projects, many find that procrastinating college applications may not be as simple. Whether through the Common Application or through a college’s website, applications have seemingly endless amounts of questions and essays to complete. Graduating seniors advise dedicating a few hours each weekend and throughout the week to filling in different sections of applications to avoid  having to rush everything in one night. As AP English teacher, Loni Perse stresses to her junior students, the Common Application often crashes due to heavy traffic the night an application is due. Staying organized and aware of due dates and submitting early can prevent a missed deadline.

“If they give you two deadlines, apply to the earlier one because you will be able to hear back sooner and save yourself a lot of stress,” senior Jessica Rolnick said.

Students and admissions counselors advise dedicating the most time to writing the essays as they have a large degree of influence on admissions decisions.

“The perfect essay takes much more work than you first thought,” senior Olivia Schuitema said. “Remember that there might be more than one essay and multiple supplements, so know from the beginning how many you have to write.”

Amid the stress of writing multiple essays, often on similar subjects, filling out personal information and compiling resumés of activities, it becomes easy to allow minor details to slip through the cracks. Recommendations play a large role in applications though students often forget and ask teachers or counselors to come up with one on a day’s notice. Counselors have hundreds of recommendations to write and ask that students notify them at least a month before a recommendation is due.

From the outside looking in, skydiving thousands of feet off a plane may seem preferable to embarking on the college application process, however, seniors content with where they are spending the next four years of their lives prove that it can be accomplished.

“The whole process is really stressful but it seems worse than it actually is,” Hale said. “Everyone is here to help you get through it though and getting accepted makes it all worth it in the end.”