The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

A College Counselor’s Application Tips

A College Counselors Application Tips

For many students, senior year brings an important–yet often stressful–experience: the college application process. Thankfully, Stone Bridge has a multitude of resources to help students navigate the journey, including Ms. Michelle Jones, the College and Career counselor. In an interview with the Bulldog Tribune, Ms. Jones gives valuable insight into multiple facets of the college application process.  

Getting started

The first step for many students in the college application process is researching the schools they may be interested in applying to. The new platform SchooLinks, found in LCPS GO, can assist in this often tenuous research process. 

“Students can put the criteria that they are most interested in, like a rural school, city school, the size of the school, certain majors, and [SchooLinks] will match them to schools that they maybe hadn’t thought about before,” Ms. Jones said. “That’s one way to explore new schools that they hadn’t considered.”

Students should also search a school’s official website, visit the campus, and attend representative visits at Stone Bridge if available. The list of representative visits and instructions on how to attend one can be found under the College + Career page on the Stone Bridge website. Throughout this research, make sure to note what a school’s application requirements are. Many students make the mistake of including components in their application that aren’t actually required. For example, Virginia Tech does not look at letters of recommendation. Thus, students should not include them in their application to Virginia Tech. 

“You have to know the school and what their requirements are,” Ms. Jones said. “Don’t send them the things that they didn’t ask for because that shows that you don’t know how to follow directions.”

It is often helpful to create a spreadsheet or other organization system to keep track of application requirements and deadlines. A spreadsheet template can be found in the College and Career Center, but students are also encouraged to create their own. 

“Find whatever works for you,” Ms. Jones said. 

Finding the right college

Students will often hear that they should find a school that is the “right fit” for them but may struggle with figuring out how to identify one.

“That’s the most important thing,” Ms. Jones said. “The best way to [tell] is when you go on a campus and you feel like it’s home. You can see yourself there for four years because that’s where you are going to be spending the majority of your young adult life. Look for a place that is welcoming for you and your priorities.” 

Ms. Jones emphasized that one should look for a school that has “your same philosophy” and “the right learning style for you”. Learning style usually refers to the way a student prefers to absorb, comprehend, and retain information. In a college setting, one’s preferred learning style influences preference towards elements like class size and faculty to student ratio. 

“If you’re somebody that can handle a class of five hundred and still learn the material and remember it all on your own and to take four big tests throughout the year and that’s it, that’s one thing,” Ms. Jones said. “But, some students need to have a connection to their professors and be able to have small group conversations.” 

Confronting rejection or anxiety in the admissions process 

It’s normal for many students to feel overwhelmed or anxious during the college application process. Fears of rejection from one’s top-choice universities can even arise, taking a toll on a student’s self-esteem. When facing a rejection letter, students must remember that a “no” does not automatically mean that they aren’t a competitive applicant or a smart student. 

“[Rejection] is not about you.” Ms. Jones said. “It doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be successful at that school. They may have university priorities, institutional priorities for that year. You don’t know what it is that they are specifically looking for that year.”

Control what you can control and just let the rest go.

— Ms. Michelle Jones

Institutional priorities refer to qualities, talents, preferences, or requirements that admissions officers must favor in an admissions decision. These are set by the university, usually in order to create a class that is diverse in ability and demographic and fits the school’s mission. Examples of institutional priorities include underrepresented backgrounds, geographic region, or unique interests/talents. These standards can originate from a school’s founding or vary year-to-year based on certain admissions goals. 

“Two years ago you might have been exactly that [the school] is looking for but this year they’re looking for male educators,” Ms. Jones said. “You just don’t know what they’re looking for so you have to move on and hope that you’ve done enough research on your end that you’re going to end up at a place where you will be happy.”

Students are usually not aware of a university’s institutional priorities. Thus, one is encouraged to simply put their best effort into creating an authentic application that showcases their top qualities and sets them apart from other candidates. 

“Once you hit submit, it’s up to the colleges,” Ms. Jones said. “Control what you can control and just let the rest go. Kids end up where they are supposed to end up. They really do.”

About the Contributor
Jillian Wallner, Section Editor
Jillian Wallner is a senior, a returning writer at the "Bulldog Tribune", and involved in multiple groups at Stone Bridge, including PEER and the cross country team. When she’s not hanging out with middle schoolers as a youth group leader she’s probably at the bookstore “just browsing”.