Guide To College Applications, Part I: Do Your Research!

Without the proper guidance, college applications can be a crazy and confusing process. That’s why high school senior George Chen decided to share his dos and don’ts of applying to schools for APA students looking for a little help. Check back to see the later installments of this ongoing series, the 8Asians Guide to College Applications.

By George

Well, I really wanted to do this during the summer, when high school juniors actually start caring about the college application process, but right now I am:

  1. bored
  2. absolutely in no mood to do homework, and with that
  3. bored

Okay, so let’s start.

For me and probably most of my Asian friends, getting into a good college was a very important part of life. First and foremost, this would give my parents more bragging rights in the family (“Did you know that my son got into _______! Where did your son go? THAT SCHOOL?! HA (not as good as where my son’s going)”!) And second of all, getting into a top university would show that my efforts paid off.

Unfortunately due to the recent budget cuts, my school has no college guidance counselor. As far as I know–and I may be wrong–the guidance counselors at my school have little knowledge about colleges outside of the UC system. This is a serious problem since the essence of high school is to broaden interests and deliver opportunities for students to get into post secondary institutions. And as the general consensus goes, we’re in the toughest competition to get into schools.

For me and everyone in my senior class, there was a need to figure out the college application process ourselves, and it didn’t help that my parents have never read articles about the admissions process because they can barely read English. I want to pass down this information to everyone not only to help alleviate the negative consequences of not having a college guidance counselor, but also to allow students to know how to apply to schools outside of the UC system. The UC system is becoming more and more competitive and expensive, and there are schools that can better suit your needs and desires. Seriously, around 40%-50% of the students in each UC school are ASIAN. Not that we’re bad or anything, I personally just didn’t want to be accidentally called Lee or Kevin or John because I look a lot like them and we hang together all the time.

Before I even begin talking about the college apps, you have to know where you want to go for college. Check to see exactly which school you really want to go to. Yeah, yeah, Harvard is where EVERY ASIAN and their CHUANESE MOTHER wants to go, but there are some schools that can even beat Harvard at its game in individual majors (My friend Daniel and I found out that UC Berkeley is ranked #1 in a lot of disciplines. A public school can be as competitive as a private school BIG TIME.) Can you believe that Yale’s law school is #1?! Can you also believe that Johns Hopkins’ Biomedical Engineering Program is ranked #1?! Did you also know that the University of Pennsylvania’s Business Program is #1? HARVARD WHAT HAPPENED?! WHY AREN’T YOU RANKED #1?! YOU’RE NOT GOOD AT EVERYTHING?! WHAT?! (I personally had to tell my parents that too, because they weren’t super happy when I got into the Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering Program. Well, they were happy, but they weren’t exploding. If your parents don’t know, let them know!)

You can find all this information on US News’ college ranking website and make sure to click on specialties. They’re more important. For the majors that they don’t list, pick a college, and select the “rankings” tab. It will tell you the individual rankings for each major that they provide. You can also click on each major to see the college rankings for said major (DON’T FORGET TO SHOW YOUR PARENTS TOO!).

Also, campus tours don’t hurt at all. See if you can schedule one with the university that you want to go to, or in fact any university at all. This personally gave me the reason why not to apply to Stanford; the campus felt dead there (honestly, why do Asian parents want us to become pale-looking reclusive zombies that bicycle everyday just to get to class?).

Don’t just pick a college because it’s top ranked. Sometimes there’s more to the education at a college. There’s the research and internship opportunities, which can get you places, the environment outside of the campus, and the type of students who learn there. People say Brown University is an amazing school and everyone is happy there. DON’T YOU WANT TO BE HAPPY TOO?!

Spend plenty of time researching schools and their characteristics. It may be a hassle, but it will pay off once you find a school that meets most, if not all, of you desires.

Next week’s article will discuss the application process for UC schools.

George Major Chen is a future Los Altos High School graduate who will be majoring in Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in the class of 2015.

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