A year ago today: The college application process

submitting UC Berkeley college application
Elaine Chung/Staff

A little less than a year ago, students across the globe spent countless hours writing personal statements and filling out college applications in hopes of earning a coveted spot at the nation’s top public university. Years of constant grinding in and out of the classroom in order to cultivate the perfect admissions profile had finally culminated in this moment.

Now that the November application window is reaching its one year anniversary, current campus students reflected on the arduous process, how they’ve evolved from the people they used to be and how they’ve maintained similar personalities since then, but also what they think they could have done differently.

Of the more than 15,500 freshman who were admitted to UC Berkeley, Melvin Tangonan recalled that this period of time “was very stressful, especially as a senior.” While Tangonan’s struggles with stress during this time are well-known to every other applicant, that’s not to say the period was completely miserable.

“The most fun part (was) exploring the different universities, (and) not just the UCs or the CSUs,” Tangonan reminisced.

Similar to Tangonan, Nikka Sandoval, another freshman, found that the college application process created a high-anxiety environment for her not only at school, but also at home. But she said she was able to cope with the stress by “being around people who supported (her).”

“Years of constant grinding in and out of the classroom in order to cultivate the perfect admissions profile had finally culminated in this moment.”

As she continues her journey into higher education, she went on to describe that this is something that she continues to look for today.

“One thing that I try to keep (constant) is that even though I live far away from the people I love, I still try and make sure that the people I know now are people that support me,” Sandoval explained.

The overwhelming presence of stress that inevitably comes with the college application process is something that makes it seem almost like a rite of passage, which, as freshman Jenna Oursler-Cherins would testify, it is.

“I remember feeling really stressed and thinking that my applications were going to decide the rest of my life. This was sort of like the defining moment,” she said.

For Oursler-Cherins, writing essays and having to reflect on what you’ve managed to accomplish up until that point in life fostered sentiments of self-consciousness and possibly even insecurity.

“I think a lot of the application process is questioning whether you’re good enough to get into these types of schools,” she reflected.

Furthermore, the process didn’t seem to end after submitting all the required materials and supplements.

“I think a lot of the application process is questioning whether you’re good enough to get into these types of schools.”

— Jenna Oursler-Cherins

“You always have those doubts, but learning to overcome them and to be confident in your abilities is something you learn while in college,” Oursler-Cherins said.

Since arriving to Berkeley from the east coast, Oursler-Cherins has come to understand more about herself, and that, being so far away from home has made her more confident in herself and her abilities compared to how she felt about herself during the application process.

In addition to the freshman admits, transfer students also looked back a few years at what that stress-inducing time looked like.

Diana Castro, a fourth year transfer student from Irvine Valley College, elaborated on what she favored about the updated version of the UC application.

According to the UC admissions’ webpage, the questions on the new application are more about getting to know the applicant, making it more like an “interview with the admissions office.” It’s one thing that Castro appreciates about the newer system because it “gives you more of a platform to speak about yourself.”

Additionally, being from a community college, Castro distinguished some of the characteristics of a transfer student versus a freshman applicant.

“There (aren’t) as many resources to go over your applications (in community college), whereas in high school, you literally had endless amounts of seminars or you had career counseling. … It seemed like almost every week leading up to the application,” Castro explained.

That clearly didn’t prohibit her from being accepted into UC Berkeley and pursuing even more. As a front-desk employee at the UC Berkeley Transfer Student Center, Castro said the experience of applying and getting in had “definitely opened up (her) perspectives.”

“I’ve realized how to work harder, and be busier, which is good and bad because sometimes, you can take on too much,” Castro said.

Castro also shed light on what it’s like to be admitted as a spring transfer.

“I felt, at first, it was a huge setback, and it was deterring me from coming to (UC) Berkeley because I was like, ‘I could go to a different campus where I (would be) a fall admit,’ ” Castro said.

Although Castro initially felt disappointed, she took advantage of the opportunity to work full time and save up money, turning the seemingly negative experience into an optimistic and fulfilling one.

“You know yourself more than anyone: the passion you have, the drive you have and what you want to achieve.”

— Diana Castro

While the college application process is its own kind of beast, many students looking to graduate school are soon to be faced with similar levels of stress and anxiety, reminding them of the inundating experience that came to them as high school seniors or college transfers.

Castro leaves us with motivational words that allow us to look back on the past few years since the college application process but also to encourage us to move forward now that we have made it to this point in our lives:

“Don’t sell yourself short. Apply. Get yourself out there. Don’t think you’re not qualified. … You know yourself more than anyone: the passion you have, the drive you have and what you want to achieve. Go. Do it.”

Contact Justin Dela Cruz at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @justindcruzucb.

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