As the office turns: Counselors, administrators and staff work to help seniors apply to colleges each fall

October 16, 2018 — by Megan Chen

During busy college applications time, staff members are also working hard to help.

In the fall semester, while seniors scramble to find time to write and edit the essays they will later send to colleges, administrators and counselors alike are busy, putting together envelopes and writing recommendation letters to paint a picture of each senior for admissions officers.

Each year, the senior class is divided evenly among the four administrators and four counselors. In turn, they spend dozens of hours writing school reports about the seniors they’re assigned to.

The college application process varies in complication depending on which schools seniors decide to apply to. Those who apply to community colleges, California State Universities, UCs or other public universities will apply through a straightforward online application, not needing a processed request of teacher or office recommendation letters. Additionally, out of these public universities, only UCs require student written essays, making the process simpler for the office staff.

In comparison, the private college application process is much more complex. Although the application process is still online in the form of the Common Application, the schools often require letters of recommendation from both teachers and administrators.

Students purchase envelopes from the office and fill in the appropriate information regarding which colleges they want to apply to, including the deadlines and requests for recommendation letters, as well as student information from other teachers.

Guidance secretary Sharon Fong then prepares envelopes that enclose transcripts and basic student information for the administrators and counselors to write their reports.

“We’re very busy right now, especially because [in addition to processing all the college applications] we also have to dive right into National Merit Scholar applications,” Fong said.

The counselors receive the packets, which contain the necessary information to write and send quality recommendation letters for their students.

“The packets are essentially the last part of the three-step process of applying to college,” counselor Frances Saiki said. “The process starts with testing when students are juniors, then we help them decide which colleges to apply to and finally students send in their essays and applications.”

On Sept. 12, seniors turned in the packets for colleges with applications due on or before Dec. 1, which included those under the early admissions deadline and some scholarship deadlines. On Nov. 7, students will turn in the set of packets for regular admissions deadlines, for which Fong will also attach the semester grades to the envelope she sends out.

According to assistant principal Brian Safine, around 70 percent of seniors have indicated that they are applying to private colleges this year, meaning the office staff will be busy writing and organizing letters in the next two months.

Every year, Safine said he usually writes about 20 to 30 letters, and sometimes even writes double that number.

In the midst of all these applications, the office staff has many valuable tips for the seniors.

The most important thing for seniors to do is to define the criteria in a college that’s most meaningful to them,” Safine said. “In the final analysis, students will be the ones attending their chosen college for four years, so their personal definition of a good college will mean far more than someone else’s.”