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Panicking over college picks

FAQs and answers before the deadline hits

As the Jan. 1 deadline quickly approaches, seniors everywhere are beginning to feel the panic to submit college applications on time. With all the uncertainties that come with applying, it’s easy to feel stressed. 

Luckily, Stacy Gentling, Santa Fe’s career counselor, is ready to answer any questions that students might have about the college process. Here are a few common questions about college applications and Mrs. Gentling’s responses to them.


How many colleges should you apply to?  

“There is a school of thought that you should apply to three. One which would be your dream school that you would love to go to, one that is in the middle or something attainable, and one that you for sure believe that you can get it. That being said I don’t think that it hurts to apply to as many you are interested in that have the programs that you like. I would say your safe range is from three to six. I would also say that you should visit as many as you possibly can because though there is a lot of TikTok giving you ideas on what that college is like, there is no replacement for how a campus makes you feel when you are on it.” 

Should you do the optional essays? 

 “I think yes always, obviously it’s more work, but it is the best way for colleges to get to know you as a person. And it makes you more human. You have to remember that everything else is just on paper, from test scores to extracurriculars and resumes. The essay is an opportunity to show them who you are.”   

How do your credits from concurrent transfer to colleges? 

“If you took concurrent courses in high school, number one those official transcripts need to come to Santa Fe. You need to get credit for those both on your high school transcript and those concurrent courses are the beginning of your college transcript. When you accept a college offer then that is something that you need to do in that process. You will need to provide them with another official copy of your college transcript and the university will decide whether or not to give you credit for that. Because it will be up to each university whether or not the class qualifies under their program.”

How do you work FASFA and scholarships?  

“Be applying to scholarships all four years of high school because there are some that you don’t need to be a junior or a senior to win those. And even if they are smaller amounts from 500 to 1,000 add up over time and typically those scholarships are money you can take anywhere you go. So you don’t have to know where you are going to college to bring those scholarships with you. Other funding such as  FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)  is also there for students to help with college aid. You will most likely need a guardian’s help to supply your household tax documents from the previous year. FASFA is a need-based student aid application that is granted to you by the federal government. Once you fill that out the government responds with how you qualify for grants, scholarships, and loans, but it gives you an aid package in those three things. Do keep in mind that FASFA is not open until December this year which is the latest it’s ever been opened. Also, I would like to mention Oklahoma’s Promise which is available for students who have lower-income parents and know that they are going to college in Oklahoma. That is free tuition to Oklahoma institutions and that’s huge.”

Should you do the same essay for each college you apply to?  

“If you decide to do your essays through a common app then they will have the common app essay that will go out to each college that you apply to. A lot of times for individual optional essays that the college put out I would not do that. You can write one and then copy that into a new Google doc and then tailor it to a new question. So you’re not starting over from scratch, but sometimes there isn’t a lot of overlap between optional or required essay questions.”

How early should you start looking at colleges? 

“You should start going physically to the college junior year. The school gives out four excused absences in both junior and senior years for a total of eight days that you can miss for college visits. Most applications are going to open on July 1 the summer between junior and senior year. Now the deadline is not going to be until Jan. 15 of your senior year, but if you have already seen what you needed to see, and visited programs that you needed to visit then it’s going to be a lot less stressful when you start to apply during senior year because you have already done your research.”

How do you look at colleges if you are undecided?

“If you have a few options on what you want to do, just make sure that the colleges that you are applying to have those interests. If you have no idea then it might be a good time to go to college close to home, do some of your general education requirements, and spend time figuring out what you want to do. It’s a loss to ask 18-year-olds to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives.”

Do colleges look at grades and other test grades?  

“Colleges 100 percent look at grades. It’s considered a prediction of how you will do in college. It’s far more rigorous coursework and they are trying to see how well you will do. However, with test-optional (which means you don’t have to submit your ACT and SAT scores) schools nowadays the tests are becoming less relevant in the admissions process. Not all colleges are test-optional with the IVY’s still very much using ACT and SAT scores in admissions. But the vast majority are test optional. With that said, those scores are used for university scholarships and other scholarships like academic state and national merit which can help in paying for scholarships. So, it is worth doing your best and taking those tests a couple of times.”

What do I need to prepare to apply/ what are they looking for? 

“They are just looking to see who you are and how well you will do at the college. In essays, they are looking for effective writing and communication skills because you need those to thrive in college and in life. In terms of extracurriculars, they are looking for a well-rounded person who has leadership experience, service, and just being well-rounded. All of your college applications will require an official transcript. The only way that you can get that is through Parchment, and when you register for your account, make sure that it’s not with your school email because you will need to access your transcript well after high school. Also at least have three recommendation letters ready to go, and have those ready for colleges and scholarships.”

If you have any more questions, feel free to email your counselor and let them know what you need. Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Students look below to see your counselor, and don’t be afraid to ask any questions. 

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About the Contributor
Annabelle Gentling, Social Media Manager & Howler Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Annabelle Gentling, and I'm a senior at Santa Fe! I love to do all forms of competitive dance except Tap. Aside from dancing, in my free time, I dress up as princesses for birthday parties. I was born in Uganda and since have moved throughout the United States. I have been in journalism since my sophomore year and I'm excited to be joining the Howeler for my last year.

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