A Dowling Student’s Survival Guide to the College Admissions Process

An guide to all of the resources and advice Dowling has to offer for post-secondary pathways.

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Becca Youngers

College can be a big decision; if you’re unsure of where to start, start reading!

Becca Youngers, Editor in-chief

Now that the anticipated November 1st deadline has passed, many high school seniors have jumped head-first into the deep end of the college admissions process. But does this process need to be so stress-inducing for thousands of college confident high schoolers around the country? 

 

In short, no. For many students, college is seen as a right of passage and is expected to be a natural transition. When you think about it, though, this is likely a student’s first big decision they will have to make in their life. 

 

Some students may choose to enter straight into the work field, and others may embark on post-secondary education at a trade school or through an apprenticeship. Most Dowling students will be continuing their education at institutions, though. Whether you are just beginning the process, are in the middle of it, or have successfully applied to all of your schools, here are just some of the abundant resources and advice Dowling has to offer.

 

Resources

1. Counselors: College and Academic

The first resource may seem obvious to some students, but counselors can be a great resource to reach out to when first beginning one’s post-secondary plans. Each student at Dowling is assigned an academic counselor by their last name, and they can also meet with College and Career Coordinator, Mrs. Colleen Koppes.

 

“Every single student meets with me individually for a counseling session on ‘what are their post-secondary plans?’ and how can I support them with deadlines, with requirements of materials, with what they’re interested in studying, and recommendations for visiting campuses,” Koppes said. 

Aside from a senior’s initial meeting with Koppes, all students, not just seniors, can schedule sessions with Mrs. Koppes. These interviews can be for a variety of things including college application questions, mock interview sessions, and general advice from someone who has spent years in admissions. 

 

“Really, in the scope of it, I help with all post-secondary planning,” Koppes said.

 

The options really are endless with post-secondary plans, and Koppes as well as students’ academic counselors are always there to support and guide them 

 

“So whether the student wants to go into the military, if they want to directly go into working, if they want an apprenticeship in, let’s say, electrician or a carpenter, if they want to go to a 2-year Community College or a 4-year Public or Private. From in-state to out of state, I help them with deciphering admissions requirements,” Koppes said. 

 

To schedule a meeting with Koppes, she uses a Calendly. To sign-up for a 30-minute meeting, students can go to their OnCampus, Resources, College Planning, and on the left side of the screen there is a hyperlink to her Calendly.

 

“I try to update it [Calendly] every month to show the access. If they have a quick question they can always email me. I’m also happy to go on a Google Meet!”

 

2. Teachers: Essays and Recommendations

Many teachers at Dowling are willing to give advice to students about their personal college admissions process, college experience, etc. as a resource. 

 

“I also say, too, we have great staff and faculty that are here to talk about their college experiences,” Mrs. Koppes said.

 

With seniors having more freedom with Prime Time this year, certain teachers like Mr. McGuire are offering special resources to Dowling students. Posters can be seen throughout the 600s hallway advertising college essay help and assistance. 

 

“Prime Time has been really beneficial this year so far, especially during the early months as people are trying to meet their first deadlines. They come in, work with me during Prime Time, and we workshop those essays together,” McGuire said.

 

McGuire offers in-person guidance and feedback. With his personal perspective as an English teacher who has looked at hundreds of college essays through teaching the unit to juniors, the resource that he is offering has been very valuable to many seniors. 

 

“I usually want to work with people because a lot of times, the essays are about really personal subjects, and providing feedback on those essays electronically leaves a little bit of a nuisance in communication that could become sad or offensive,” McGuire said.

 

McGuire as well as all other Dowling teachers also offer the resource of recommendation letters. Typically, most colleges will either allow or require a certain amount of recommendation letters in their applications. It is up to students to decide what teachers know them, their qualities, and their abilities the best when deciding who to ask for recommendations. 

 

“Recommendation letters are usually put on me through the recommendation process, and since I teach all juniors and seniors, I get a lot of them, I write them, and I send them in.” McGuire said, “Making sure you get your recommendations to teachers in a timely manner is nice. It’s hard to say no to a student, but if you give me two days to write a recommendation, the answer is probably going to be no.”

 

3. Naviance

Naviance is a huge resource that can fly under the radar for most students.

 

Using Naviance, that’s the biggest resource I would have to just keep reiterating, you’ll utilize it heavily with your college and future plans.”

— Koppes

 

Accessible through the Resources tab on OnCampus, Naviance is most-likely familiar for students for three main things: x2Vol for service hours, online guidance, and the famous “4 Year Plan.” 

 

What students might not realize is that Naviance is a great tool for organizing the entirety of one’s college admissions process. 

 

Regarding teacher recommendations and transcripts to be sent to institutions, those are requested through Naviance.

 

“I’d really recommend students checking out Naviance. [You use Naviance to] To request transcripts, to ask for teacher recommendations, that all goes through Naviance,” Koppes said.

 

Naviance can also be a great tool for those who aren’t exactly sure what they want to pursue after high school.

 

“They actually have assessments like career assessments or strengths assessments that you can take through Naviance to kind of figure out where your calling is,” Koppes said.

If a student is browsing institutions around the country and is curious to see how they match up to a typical admit at that particular institution, Naviance offers a quick overview of just about any college one could think of. Better yet, if students have applied to that school from Dowling in previous years, students can see their ACT and GPA as well as their admission decision: waitlisted, rejected, or accepted. 

 

“[you can] Kind of see, ‘does their academic profile match the students that have traditionally been admitted from Dowling but also across the country,” Koppes said.

 

4. Non-Senior Resources

Though college might seem far away for underclassmen, it is truly never too early to start looking at one’s options. 

 

Dowling holds an annual college fair in February. This is a resource for underclassmen to explore universities primarily in the Midwest but also around the entire country, and if nothing else, they can receive a lot of free college stuff. 

 

“There’s roughly usually 100 colleges that come from across the country to the Midwest into the gymnasium,” Koppes said. “We do that every single year where it kind of gives you a different taste of a variety of institutions, to explore different career types.”

 

Koppes herself also goes into both Dowling 101 classes and junior English classes to plant some seeds of college thoughts in underclassmen. 

 

Though these are seriously just a few of the resources Dowling offers as a whole, these should definitely not be taken advantage of.

 

Advice

Teacher and Counselor Advice

College deadlines, materials, and thoughts can be much more stressful than needed. I did a quick Q&A session along with my interviews of Koppes and McGuire to get some personalized advice from the two.

Koppes:

Q: What is something students should be keeping in their head, something some students don’t realize when they are going through the process, regarding the college admissions process?

A: Kind of two things that I would say. There are a number of institutions, there’s over 3,000 institutions to choose from across the country, and wherever you choose to go, I am confident that you will get a good education. But most importantly, when you go on those visits, you might do a virtual visit or communicating with admissions counselors is really getting at the heart of ‘Do you feel comfortable here?’ ‘Do you see yourself fitting in?’ ‘Do you see the student body fitting in with your personality and your overall outcomes and goals for your future?’ Also, ‘What is important to that student?’ because every student that I meet with has different interests or criteria that they’re looking for in a college, so being mindful that ultimately, it’s your individual decision, and how I can help you navigate through that. The other big thing too, yes, is that I would recommend that students are mindful of if the schools they are applying to have deadlines that they give the teacher recommendations.

 

Q: The college admissions process can be very stressful for a lot of students; if you could give current seniors at Dowling advice to alleviate some of that stress, what would it be?

A: From my experiences, I would say that the students that started meeting with me early, freshman and sophomore year are not too early to start working with your college counselor or looking at Niche or Naviance or going on a college visit. I think that students who take the time step-by-step, it alleviates that stress. Also knowing that you have until May 1st to make your college decision. Even when you hear back from those applications and you’re admitted, you don’t have to jump on it right away. You can process it, talk with me, talk with parents, friends and family.

 

McGuire:

Q: What is something students should be keeping in their head, something some students don’t realize when they are going through the process, regarding the college admissions process?

A: Think ahead. Hopefully as people are coming out of their spring semester junior year. That college and career readiness unit, the resume, and the college essay should be kind of a kick to the butt about, you know, this is coming up probably faster than you want it to. Thinking about it in the spring semester of your junior year is the right time to start thinking about it and seeing what the deadlines look like coming into the fall of your senior year. People lose track and miss opportunities for deadlines to certain colleges, scholarships, and other things like that.

 

Alumni Advice

To have some advice from peers that have recently gone through the process, I did a quick Q&A session with two Dowling alumni from the Class of 2021. Both of these amazing alumni are likewise Post alumni. 

 

Logan Flori

Q: What year did you graduate from Dowling?

A: Physically, I graduated in 2021. Mentally, probably like 2019.

 

Q: Where are you currently attending college, and why did you choose to attend your current institution?

A:  I currently attend college at Washington University in St. Louis. I chose the school because of the city/campus school combination, as well as the academic rigor and inclusive environment. Also, they let me in which was cool.

Q: Give a brief overview of what the college admissions process looked like for you: stress levels, how many schools, etc.

A: I started the college admissions process so that my stress would be as minimal as possible, but I promise the work is not as daunting as it seems! The CommonApp made my life really easy because all the information I needed to send to schools was in one place. Of course, I did expend a lot of energy stressing over the perfection of my applications, but everything worked out.

 

Q: Do you feel that the resources Dowling gave you throughout the admissions process were beneficial? Why or why not?

A: One advantage of going to Dowling is having access to a college counselor, a resource I highly recommend using! 

 

Q: What is one thing you wish you knew when beginning your application process? 

A: I wish I knew that the outcome of this process was Not the determination of my worth. Don’t let the prospects of college consume you, focus on enjoying your senior year.

 

Q: The college admissions process can be very stressful for a lot of students; if you could give current seniors at Dowling advice to alleviate some of that stress, what would it be?

A: My advice to current Dowling seniors would be to take a risk. Apply to that school that’s sitting in the back of your mind but feels unobtainable. The right balance of safety, target, and reach schools ensures that you will end up wherever is best for you! Also, practice some self-care, especially during the waiting period after everything has been turned in. You deserve to reward yourself!

 

Stella Logsdon

Q: What year did you graduate from Dowling?

A: I graduated from Dowling this past year (2021)

 

Q: Where are you currently attending college, and why did you choose to attend your current institution?

A: I’m a student at the University of Iowa. Iowa was one of my top schools, and I ended up choosing between here and Fordham in New York City. I decided on Iowa because they have a lot of programs here that I’m interested in, and I have a great group of friends that also attended school here.

Q: Give a brief overview of what the college admissions process looked like for you: stress levels, how many schools, etc.

A: I was the master of procrastination when it came to college admissions! A lot of my friends in high school were ahead of the curve which made me feel like I needed to be doing more, when the reality is that I was perfectly fine where I was at! I applied for all of my schools by the end of the fall semester. The schools I applied for were Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, and Fordham at Lincoln Center. My applications weren’t beyond any average level of difficulty, and only Fordham required an essay submission which was a relief! Overall, my college application and admissions process was chill.

 

Q: Do you feel that the resources Dowling gave you throughout the admissions process were beneficial? Why or why not?

A: Erin Gabriel (previous College and Career Coordinator) was a fantastic resource provided by Dowling. I decided to apply to Fordham on a whim in December with a January 1 deadline. I emailed her and asked her if she would be willing to help me with the application. She is my hero! She helped me walk through my to-do list, and she helped me get everything I needed in like two weeks. Shoutout Erin.

 

Q: What is one thing you wish you knew when beginning your application process?

A: Something that I wish I knew while applying to schools is that it is not the end of the world! College can be stressful to think about, but it’s important to remember that it’s just one moment in time, and your college decision does not define you.

 

Q: The college admissions process can be very stressful for a lot of students; if you could give current seniors at Dowling advice to alleviate some of that stress, what would it be?

A: In terms of alleviating stress, it’s important to take breaks and make sure you’re taking time away from college stress and deadlines. Don’t avoid responsibility completely, but definitely let yourself get away from all the stress.