By Maddy PUMILIA
As a high school senior, first semester is a roller coaster ride: whether it’s taking the SAT, studying for AP classes to impress colleges or writing college admission essays – the experience can be overwhelming or exciting. Either way, it never hurts to learn more about how to cope with the months of stress.
The La Cañada Thursday Club hosted a college workshop on Sunday to help prepare students for the demands that will be made of them. About 150 people – mainly high school students and family members – attended the event.
Following a presentation of the film, “In 500 Words or Less” a panel of college experts and former high school seniors gave the audience advice on how to manage the college admissions process. Food and drinks were served after the panel’s presentation.
“In the next couple months, I’m applying to college, so I want to learn the information,” said Crescenta Valley High School student Mara Harris. She said she most likely would attend college on the California coast.
Ronna Harris, Mara’s mother, said that the college process was “overwhelming. I am very hopeful that [the event will make it less overwhelming.] Any pointers, any direction is very welcomed.” Mara is Ronna’s first child to attend college.
“In 500 Words or Less” follows the lives of four high school seniors: Molly (Montclair, N.J.), Lindsay (Oakton, Va.), Leo (Yonkers, N.Y.) and Michael (Atlanta, Ga.) and their individual college admission experience. The film covers all aspects from what classes to take in high school to family pressures and health concerns; from how being a minority affects what college to attend to accepting rejection from a school. The movie is available on Netflix.
The panel consisted of Joanna Hartigan, director emerita of college counseling at Flintridge Preparatory School; Jan Roberts, parent educator and newspaper columnist; Sally Spangler, college counselor at La Cañada High School; Emily Toffelmire, assistant director, Undergrad Admissions at University of Southern California; Woody Buck, University of Michigan freshman; Katie Cooper, Emory University freshman; and Steve Shushnar, University of Santa Clara freshman.
Hartigan talked about how to choose the college with the right fit. She said that students need to consider location, lifestyle, academics and finances.
Roberts spoke on the importance of parents in the college admission process. She said that over involvement causes more stress for the incoming student.
“There is a choice in the way to approach a college application. I hope that the seniors already started their college search,” Spangler said. She recommended students buy a filing cabinet to keep organized. She added that students should meet the college representatives that visit the schools, because often times those are the people who view the college applications.
Emily Toffelmire said if students have a question, the student – not the parent – needs to take responsibility and call or email the institution. She added, “The essay? It’s really important. I can’t stress that enough.” She added that if someone is a math or science major, it’s not as important as opposed to a writing or analytical major.
Buck advised, “Apply for as many scholarships as you can. It’s so rewarding.”
“My advice for the waitlist is to pursue it,” Cooper said. “Write a letter and say it’s your first choice.”
“There’s no way around it: college admissions are really stressful,” Shushnar said. He told seniors to not have too many extracurricular activities and instead build up college applications over the summer.