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The Griffin

Our mission: to enlighten and to entertain

The Griffin

Our mission: to enlighten and to entertain

The Griffin

An inside guide to the perfect college application

An inside guide to the perfect college application
Lifetouch

Dulaney High School (DHS) senior Maya Tarantino, attending Duke University this fall, shares tips for students beginning their college application process.

Juniors have begun anticipating the start of their college application process as they approach fall of 2024. Tarantino, an active member of DHS’s Student Government Organization (SGO) and the Social Impact Manager of #ICANHELP, answers commonly asked questions regarding this process.

Q: What is the first piece of advice you would give to a student going into their college application-writing process?

A: I spent so much time in the beginning trying to figure out exactly what each college wanted to hear and critiquing my writing to each college’s standards. I finally came to the realization that if a school doesn’t like the true version of who I am, then I shouldn’t be going to that school. So, my biggest piece of advice is to be honest in who you are. When you read your essay, make sure you get the feeling of “yeah, this is me.”

Q: What area would you consider most important on an application?

A: I think it’s different for each college and each person. I’m confident that my extracurriculares are what made my application stand out. Not just that I was heavily involved but that all my extracurriculars aligned with one another. They were all intentional in aligning with my passion for mental health advocacy.

Q: When should a student start their application?

A: It depends on who you are. Don’t procrastinate, but also don’t start insanely early. I started my Common App essay in July, let it sit for a while, and then came back to it in September when I started grinding out all of my apps. Another piece of advice I have for students, though, is to do all the brainless information pieces first for each school, like the parent information, transcript, etc. People don’t realize how time consuming that part of the application can be. Doing it early took a lot of stress off when I got closer to deadlines.

Q: How do you approach teachers about writing letters of recommendation?

A: I gave most of my teachers a heads up my junior year, but you don’t usually need to officially request it until the beginning of your senior year. I asked each of mine in person and gave them each my reasoning behind asking them. It’s okay to let them know what you’re looking for them to touch on in your letter, especially if each teacher knows a different aspect of who you are.

Q: What are some easy ways to get plugged in with extracurriculars, and how important are they?
A: As they are increasingly becoming more and more important to colleges, find something that really sparks your interest and dive into it. Do things because you’re passionate about it, not because it looks good on a resume.

Q: What should students be mindful of while writing their college essays?
A: Make sure your essay is about YOU. I got stuck on writing about other people and how they’ve impacted me more than my own growth. It really helps to read other people’s essays to get an idea of what it should look like. Most colleges have a “Why our school?” essay. I dove really deep into these questions and included niche details about the school so they knew I did my research. I mentioned specific classes I wanted to take while I was there, specific clubs and even traditions the school may have.

Q: What’s the biggest thing to avoid while writing a college essay?
A: Writing about a universal experience. I think it’s important your essay is individualized.

Q: What prompt or topic did you write your essay on?
A: It was kind of all over the place…My introduction was about the kids I nanny for, and then I shifted into “but what about when they have to face the bigger issues of today?” I shifted into my work with #ICANHELP and student empowerment. My introduction and closing were from my Optimal Essay in AP English. A big tip is to look over your past essays and see where you can pull from.

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About the Contributor
Roxanne Hays, Staff Writer
Junior Roxanne (Roxy) Hays is a first-year staff writer for the Dulaney Griffin. Hays enjoys creative writing, fashion and writing music. She also loves babies, shopping, lifting at the gym and planning her future.
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