by Galia Madfis, Durra Al-Assaad, and Sarinna Vasavada

Galia’s Questions & Answers:

When do you start practicing testing?

Testing is different for everyone. Of course there are the people who seem to easily make it through the ACT or SAT and end the process with a perfect score, but don’t be fooled, everyone has their own struggle. The process is not fun, but the best advice I could give is to buy a practice book and know the types of questions you are going to be asked. Don’t forget about test optional schools if it’s something you are really struggling with, and remember you have multiple tries to improve your scores. There are so many ways to do better on the ACT and SAT, like getting a tutor, watching videos online, and going to prep classes. There is nothing fun about taking it, but it does end eventually.

How do you know what colleges to visit?

I visited a huge variety of schools: small colleges with a surrounding college town and not much else, large city schools, and even a small christian music college (although I am not Christian and have no passion for music). Even though most people would stick to visiting one type of campus that matches what they want in a school, I’m really glad I saw a diversity of schools because I was able to figure out what I wanted in a campus. The whole point of a college visit is to see if you can see yourself on that campus, so visit as much as you can and keep an open mind about everything. It was especially helpful to go during the school year so I could see the types of people on campus. I know it’s hard to take time during the school year to visit schools when HB juniors and seniors are crazy busy already, but try to find some time for it if you can.

How do you know what to write your essay on?

When writing an essay, it’s easy to fall into a cliche topic that doesn’t have much substance, but try to steer clear of that. Trust me, if you start writing a sob story your college counselor will make you change it, and honestly it just won’t read well to any school. The point of a college essay is to say something about who you are, and it’s one of the best places to get your personality across. Talk about something you struggled with, a time you changed your opinion on an idea or situation, or something you are really passionate about. The best advice I can give is try to showcase something that isn’t in the rest of your common app, and find a creative way to talk about an idea. The best way to find ideas is to just sit down, write, and see what sticks. 

How to not get overwhelmed?

Understand that yes, you will get into college. Everyone has that moment where they think they are going to be rejected from every school they apply to, but trust me you are going to get into a school and everything will be fine. Find a couple places you are happy being at, not just one reach school that you are staking everything on. Also make sure to take breaks from the college process. Go out with your friends, listen to music, try to have fun. There will be times where it feels like you can’t finish anything you need to, but you will fill finish on time. Help yourself by staying ahead and don’t procrastinate. I wrote all my supplements during the summer, even though everyone was telling me not to waste my time. When school started and I was overwhelmed by all the tests, quizzes, and homework I had, and was so happy I didn’t have to worry about writing 12 supplements like most of my friends. There really is no better feeling then hitting submit on the common app, just remember your time will come.

What did we learned the most?

No school is going to be perfect. There is no place that was built with just you in mind. Every college, even your top choice dream school, has it’s problems. That’s okay, it’s a part of college and it’s a part of life. Finding the right school is about accepting the cons and searching for pros. The best part about college is you can make it your own. I went into the college process with one school that was perfect and that I had to go. Funny thing is I’m not even applying there, and I’m relieved I changed my mind. It’s going to be hard, overwhelming, boring, and stressful, but you are also going to learn a lot about yourself and find the place for you. Don’t feel like everything is too much or too hard, seniors have always gotten it done. The best advice I can give is to just keep pushing through, soon you’ll be on the stage at graduation.

Sarinna’s Questions & Answers:

When do you start practicing testing?

I started prepping for the ACT over the summer before junior year. I was sure that I wanted to focus on that test and not take the SAT. I had a little bit of tutoring throughout December and January and then took my first ACT in February. However, after I got my score back I was not too happy and my mom convinced me to try the SAT which I ultimately did much better after a little preparation. I really recommend using prep books and watching videos online rather than getting tutored, as I personally found that studying by myself was much more beneficial. I would also recommend being open to both tests and not giving up if you don’t get your goal score. Remember that this one test you take on a Saturday morning doesn’t determine everything. 

How do you know what colleges to visit?

I visited a lot of colleges when we were going on vacation or if I had time off from school. I made a preliminary list of all the colleges I was interested in at the beginning of the summer before junior year and I picked out all the colleges that track demonstrated interest. I made it a priority to visit those first along with any other schools I was really interested in. Additionally, I really maximized my free time to research schools that I was interested in and I also used Naviance to find schools that were similar to some of the other colleges I was interested in. 

How do you know what to write your essay on?

Writing my common app essay is definitely the hardest essay I have written. I wrote five different essays about completely different topics before I finally found one that I liked. The way I found my essay topic was by talking with my parents and just brainstorming. I also recommend having a notes page on your phone that you can jot down ideas if you think of some during the day which happened to me a lot. Finally, don’t delete any previous drafts of your essay as you may be able to use some of the ideas for supplements. 

How to not get overwhelmed?

It is very easy to psych yourself out especially once senior year starts. I have honestly found that time management is key. Every week I will figure out what essays I want to get done and I will make a plan for each day on how I am going to do it. I will also hold myself accountable, for example I sometimes have my college counselor set “deadlines” for each of my essays so I am motivated to write the essay. Additionally, don’t just study and write essays. Senior year is supposed to be fun, so spend time with your friends on weekends and don’t stress too much, everything will work out!

What did we learn the most?

Your friends and family will support you no matter what. Don’t make all your decisions about college based on what your friends and family think. Additionally, have confidence in yourself. Everyone will get into college and in the end you will be happy somewhere. Just remember to keep focused and pushing through until graduation. 

Durra’s Questions & Answers:

When do you start practicing testing?


For me honestly, I didn’t start testing until the end of my junior year. This was a huge mistake because it set me back so much with my college work like visiting colleges, doing interviews, working supplements, etc. For me, I personally I wish I started in December if not at the latest in February. I also wish I had taken both the SAT and the ACT. Prior to coming to HB, I didn’t know the ACT was a thing and all I knew was the SAT. I decided to just stick with the SAT because I already had all the prep books for it at home and I thought the math section of it was much easier.

How do you know what colleges to visit?

For me, you should begin visiting colleges during your spring break. I couldn’t visit any colleges during spring break because I was on a global scholars trip. For me, I began the summer of entering my junior year. I knew I wanted to start visits early and I was already in the state of my top choice and they had a visit available on that day, so it was honestly fate. When I stepped on that campus, I honestly knew from my sophomore year that this was the university I want to go to and spend the 4 years of my college career.

How do you know what to write your essay on?

For me, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about because it was a part of my identity. If you want to pick a choice, I would pick something that is close to you and something that has somehow changed you. Like for my essay, I know this is cheesy, but my topic allowed me to see the world in a different light and it allowed me to lose my security net and reach out to others. I would also talk to your counselor or Mr. Parsons about what your topic is. I had another choice in mind however I knew that the other topic I would have picked is too basic and very similar to what other people would have written.

How to not get overwhelmed?

I would say to stay on top of your work and make sure you meet deadlines. When you ask for the extension, you are literally only putting off the inevitable. I know I asked for an extension for my college essay and I still turned in after the extension deadline. I would also space out your college work like the supplements and try to get them all done a week before the deadline so that you have time to meet with your counselor to go over them as well.

What did we learn the most?

I learned not to wait until the last minute for testing. I really wish I listened to the people around me and not waited until the summer of my junior year. I also learned that my parents and my friends will be there for me. 6 months from now, no one will care where you go, pick a university that you feel right and when you know, you know. Don’t let the people in your grade sway your decision where you want to go to because where I want to ED to, people will judge me so hard. However, this is my life and my decisions. Remember, everyone is there to support you with your process. Every person’s journey is different.

Posted by:hbinretrospect

Reporting not for school, but for life.

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