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2020 senior advice column

“Did CPS’s small community encourage, discourage, or not play a factor in the college process?”

10 people said they wanted a “smaller” school:

“I wanted to go to a smaller school particularly because I enjoyed my time at CPS. Now, I’m going to be going to a school with a little over 1,000/grade, and I’m super happy! I think the thing to remember is even though you may feel a little suffocated at CPS, or think that there aren’t as many opportunities because of its size, ANY college will be bigger. Even the ones that are comparatively tiny. Think more about the individual opportunities and setbacks at bigger/smaller schools.”

“I’ve always been really comfortable in smaller communities, and I usually do better academically with small class sizes and good teacher-to-student ratios. However, I also wanted to get some experience in larger schools because that simulates the “real world experience.” I ended up choosing a college with about 6000 undergrads, so it’s ‘medium-sized.’ Ultimately, what’s important to remember is that any school is gonna feel bigger than CPS.”

“Actually, I chose to go to a smaller school because I wanted something like what I found here at CPS. I think I had large schools ruined for me by bad experiences in the public school system, and CPS was a lovely break from that, so I looked to continue that streak.”

5 people said they wanted a bigger school:

“Yes—I loved CPS for high-school, but I wanted a bigger environment for college, and that’s part of the reason why I chose to apply only to universities as opposed to liberal arts colleges.”

“After knowing everyone for 4 years I kinda wanted to go somewhere where I would be able to meet new people every day. I still didn’t want a gigantic school, so I ended up applying to mid-sized schools (like 5,000-15,000). It wasn’t as much of not wanting to ‘redo’ CPS, but more that I wanted to expand the number and type of people that I’m around, so it’s not just the same people with similar backgrounds.” 

“In the beginning of the process, I primarily picked large schools that I knew would have a lot of school spirit. As the time went on, I added smaller schools. There are definitely advantages to both, but still, I want to go to a bigger school next year. I need more diversity of people (not just race but interests, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.), because I feel like there’s a lot more to learn from that.” 

“How did you decide what to major in?”

2 people said they used summer programs:

“I had the opportunity to go to a summer program that helped me realize the type of people I want to be surrounded by and how I work the most productively, so I pretty much decided the summer of the college process. If you have the chance and you’re still a freshman or sophomore, you should experiment with your interests and use your breaks to discover what you’re actually willing to study for the next four or five years of your life.”

1 person said they have absolutely no idea and 6 people said they haven’t declared a major, but they have an idea of what they’re interested in:

“I haven’t yet. You do not need to decide a major before applying to college. It is good, however, to have an idea of what you’re interested in, and to emphasize that in your applications. I was inspired in my choice by my favorite classes at College Prep. I also wanted to find similar people to those that I found in [those classes] as I quickly realized that these are my people.” 

“I don’t know yet! Most schools don’t make you declare your major when you’re applying, and you’re generally only required to declare your major your sophomore year. You shouldn’t think that a single major means a single path. Keep an open mind. I still didn’t put ‘undecided’ for my major on my applications, though. Instead, when they ask me ‘potential’ majors, I put down some basic interests. It rounds you out and shows the college that you have some interests, some personhood. Colleges aren’t expecting you to know everything and have it all planned out.”

“Any weird nuances about classes that you wish you knew going into them?”

“Don’t take classes to get into classes. Take classes you’re actually interested in, even if they’re a lot of work, because you’ll be more engaged and happy in school.”

“In senior year, it’s hard to switch out of AP classes once you’ve joined them because you’ve sorta ‘promised’ that class to your college, and they might not like it if you change. Be careful about which AP classes you decide to take! Think about what you actually want to be doing in the second semester when senioritis hits.”

“Do you actually hate talking about college?”

5 people answered no, saying they like talking about college and they don’t like the secrecy/stigma:

“The only thing I hate is the stigma that shouldn’t exist. I don’t mind at all and I actually like talking about college, I just feel like other people don’t like when I talk about college. Not sure if that’s true or not, but it’s definitely the vibe. That’s something I wish would change.” 

“No, not at all! In fact, I wish people would talk more openly about it so it doesn’t seem so scary when you are just starting out in the process. I love when my friends in younger grades ask me questions about the process. I definitely am not an expert, but I wish someone in an older grade would’ve been there for me the way I’m trying to be there for my younger friends. Pretending college apps don’t exist just makes everyone more… anxious, so my hope is that this dynamic at CPS will start to fade away in the coming years.” 

8 people answered no, saying they like talking about college, but they are still sensitive to the person they are speaking to and the circumstance:

“Not really, actually. It helped me destress because it was like we’re addressing the ‘elephant in the room.’ A couple of my friends felt the same, and other friends really didn’t like talking about college. As long as you figure out who likes what and how to broach the topic of college if you ever want to, you should be fine. 

“Not really, but that’s mostly because I got super lucky with my college process… This is a big part of our future we’re talking about, so if you’re not sure where you’re gonna end up yet, it’s nerve-racking! Be very careful about approaching a senior about college: the experience is different for all of us.”

“College is one of those things that is very particular to each student. Some people really don’t like to talk about it, some love talking about it…. Throughout the process I actually found it really helpful and comforting to talk with my friends in a healthy way…. I think everyone should choose how they want to talk about it, while making sure to respect how/if other students choose to talk about it.” 

5 people answered yes, that they don’t like talking about college:

“Honestly, yes… Everyone has a judgement and an opinion and it can really make you feel like **** when they take it upon themselves to share it with you. It can also be super stressful to talk about it constantly when it’s already on your mind and weighing on you.” 

“It can be kind of uncomfortable. Not everyone is in the same situation. It’s sort of like talking about grades. People have different ideas of what is ‘good’ or not and it ends up hurting others’ feelings. I think talking about college is totally fine if it’s with your friends that you’re close with, but otherwise it can be weird.”

“There was a point during the college process when I kind of did. It felt overwhelming to constantly hear ‘ooh, X has legacy at X school’ or ‘X school is my second choice.’ It’s all about setting boundaries and being honest. My friends and I decided to make texting/online a College Free Zone, and decided to only rant/discuss college in person, when everyone agreed that they were comfortable with it. This worked well and I recommend it!”

“I only hate talking about it because I usually have to keep saying the same thing over and over, because all the questions are just coming from different family members.”

5 people said that it depends:

“It’s weird. I do really want to talk about the things I’m excited about, but I really don’t want to seem as though I’m being conceited or bragging. It’s nice when people are excited with me, but I hate it when people start trying to compare themselves to me or others. It just makes everyone involved feel uncomfortable and bad!”

“It depends. After I got deferred from my early school and people kept asking me where I was going to college, that was a bit of a sting every time. I would advise people not to ask such questions between December and March. But after I ended up getting into my early school later and a bunch of other places as well, I don’t mind anymore. When people ask specific questions like “which college” during stressful periods of time, that can be unpleasant. However, I always found planning in broad terms with my friends about how we’d visit each other and how we’d stay in contact to be fun, even when I didn’t know where I’d be.” 

“Can you share some advice about how to get accepted by top colleges?”

9 people critiqued the framework of the question, saying that you should pick a college you like rather than a “top” college that you might end up hating:

“This isn’t really answering the question, but don’t think about prestige as the only factor you should look at when applying to schools. You should look for schools that actually cater to your interests, rather than ones that people have heard of. You’ll be a lot happier at an obscure school that you’re excited about going to rather than a school that you only wanted to go to for the reputation.”

10 people said that you shouldn’t do things to fill up your resume—instead you should actually do what you are passionate about and develop those passions: 

“I am a firm believer that you should spend your time doing things that you actually care about rather than doing things just to bulk up your resumé. That being said, really dive into your passions and interests, whether that be your sport or job or art. Colleges just want to see that you care about things and are an engaged person. Obviously apply yourself at school, but make sure that you have other things in your life and that you don’t sink yourself too deeply into grades and schoolwork. That’s just no fun.” 

“Be yourself. It’s all random, at the end of the day. You could be rejected from a safety and get into your reach. You could get rejected from 7 safeties, and get into your reach (that’s me). But if you make yourself seem like a real person, with real interests, and not just a high-GPA, high SAT/ACT robot with the long goal of getting into your ‘top college,’ then you might have more trouble. Also, spend time writing your essays. Have someone look over them. Make sure they are you, not someone you think you should be. Follow your heart.”

4 people said that you should listen to Martin and Kate:

“Listen to Kate and Martin. Also, know that there’s only so much of the college process you can actually control. There’s a lot of luck involved in the admissions process, so judging your own merit based on where you get accepted, especially with regards to ‘top colleges,’ is not helpful.”

1 person said, among other advice, to ED to the school you’re interested in/interview:

“ED is also helpful, because, as you will hear from colleges again and again, they REALLY value demonstrated interest (showing your commitment to the school), and ED is probably the most extreme version of demonstrating your interest. Also, do interviews! They help the college get to know you in ways your essays can’t fully communicate.”

2 people said you should focus on essays/applications:

“This kinda goes for any college but really think critically about your essays while you write them. It’s super easy to just write the essay in the 20 minutes before your Kate meeting, but you’re not gonna end up with a good product. If you do just write it right before the meeting, make sure you go back and do some edits on the actual content to make sure they are actually good.”

“It might sound horrible, but don’t be afraid to really sell yourself on your applications. All of you are talented individuals, so find ways to showcase that! Use your essays to let admissions officers know what you’re passionate about and who you are beyond just your stats. It’s not bragging; college apps are about being honest about your strengths. If you feel like there is nothing special about you, Kate and Martin are always there to help you uncover potential essay topics. Sometimes, something you think is completely ordinary can be transformed into an amazing essay.” 

2 people said they don’t know because the process is unpredictable. 

“What was the most challenging part of the college process for you?”

1 person said worrying about the future: 

“The whole writing part wasn’t that bad… The testing was annoying and kind of felt like a waste of time. But honestly, the worst part of the whole college process was just mentally processing that your time at high school is going to be over soon and you’re going to have to start worrying about the future.”

4 people said writing so many essays: 

“Writing the supplements was pretty difficult for me. Yes, there are quite a few of them, but for the most part, it was because I had a hard time believing that my stories were interesting or special enough to stand out. I disliked the perceived blandness of everything I wrote until I finally took the time to find meaning in my activities and interests for my sake, and not for the college process. Once I actually understood why my passions were important to me, my writing flowed more easily, and I had material that I was proud to share.”

“Getting started on the essays. Once you have an idea of how to answer it doesn’t take too much time to get them finished, but some of the questions are so vague or just strange that I didn’t know where to start.”

3 people said time management: 

“I struggled with juggling regular school work, college applications, and spending time with family/friends. I also had to think critically about what path I wanted to take in my life, whether I wanted to move away from my family for school, or what exactly I wanted to pursue (or even just a vague idea about a profession that interested me). I had to think about how I wanted to use my one shot at life, and what could make my life meaningful.”

“Getting applications in on time. I’m a procrastinator by nature, and I thought I was fine when I glanced over various applications beforehand to see how much work would need to be done to get them finished. DO NOT DO THIS!!! A good proportion of the time, colleges will ask for some form of supplemental material Kate and Martin won’t have prepared you for, especially if the application for the college is not covered by the Common App. Get on your applications as soon as you can, because the quicker you get them done, the less stressed you will be about them.”

1 person said the inequities of school system:

“For me, it was the overwhelming realization of the inequalities and inequities of the college system in the US. It can be really difficult to learn that you are at a disadvantage because of money, parents’ level of education, and many other issues. Something that really helped me was talking with anyone about these structural inequalities and how they affected me personally. I talked to Sara LC, my friends, and my family. I highly recommend reaching out if you are going through the same stress. It makes everything feel a lot more manageable.”

 4 people said they found all the options challenging to sift through:

“All the options. Everywhere seems so magical, you’re gonna want to go to all of them, but you’re allowed to be picky. There are thousands of colleges, and you’re only going to one. If you don’t like a place but still think it could mayyyybe be cool? Throw it out.”

5 people said their biggest college-process challenge was surrounding their Early Decision college:

“Taking fall semester final exams the day after being deferred from my early school, when nearly all my friends had gotten into theirs was really tough. If this happens to you, tell yourself that you have to be a superhero and overcome whatever odds and it’ll all work out, because it will.” 

“You’ll get through it, I promise. I look back now and think, wow, that was kinda easy! It definitely wasn’t. In the beginning, the hardest part was picking my ED. Martin did not think I’d get in, and I didn’t think I’d get in, but I really loved the school and it felt wrong not to try and apply. I did apply, and no, I didn’t get in. But I don’t regret that choice a bit. I think the days before that, expecting that decision was really hard. When I actually got rejected I was completely fine, honestly, but I couldn’t help but think ‘ugh, now I have to go and apply to all these other schools, meanwhile my friends are done!’”

“Honestly, the waiting after submitting my ED in September and then waiting until December when I was accepted. You are sort of just left to sit there anxiously because there’s nothing left for you to do.”

1 person found it hard to lower their ‘middle school standards:’ 

“I think middle school me set standards that were way too high for myself (aka Stanford and all of the Ivies). Coming to terms with the fact that these schools were out of reach was disappointing. Once I started researching other colleges though, I realized how many great alternatives there were that actually fit me better as both a student and person, so everything worked out :)”

1 person struggled with talking about college with their family members:

“Talking about it constantly with family members and strangers. It’s so draining and can really mess with your head. Also choosing an essay topic was kind of difficult, but that really varies from person to person.” 

“What will you miss most about CPS?”

15 people said they would miss the community, the people, their friends, or teachers: 

“I’m gonna miss the people so much. That includes faculty, students, staff, parents??? It’s crazy but now that I’ve started talking to people from my college and branching out, I’ve really realized how special all the CPS people are. I mean everyone here is so respectful and kind and welcoming, which isn’t easy to find. So just being around all the wonderful people is gonna be a big thing that I’ll miss.”

“The people! I have found that people here are truly so kind and passionate and welcoming and wonderfully weird and I live for the conversations I have with friendly acquaintances during passing periods. The teachers are also all exceptional human beings and truly care about us all and I’m really going to miss chatting with them after class and during free periods.”

1 person said they’ll miss how low-risk everything is:

“Everything is so low-risk. You don’t realize it until you’re a senior, and maybe until you’re a second semester senior. You won’t ever find another place where you can try out for a sport, write for the newspaper, try dance, a play, or try volunteer opportunities just because you want to. I think about that a lot. At other schools you have to apply and compete, but here you can just try out something. If it’s not for you, give it up. There are so many underutilized resources. Also, the people, of course. I adore my friends. But I can’t say I’ll miss them, because I’m sure I’ll stay in touch. I don’t really feel like I’m saying good-bye to them, you know?”

Also, this:

“The teachers! Sunny days on the music lawn! The wisteria!” (one other person also said they’ll miss the flowers blooming)

“Seeing people every day, like my friends and Janice. I’ll miss you Janice!! Someone send this to her.”

“The excitement of finding hot Cheetos in the vending machine, sitting outside on the music lawn when it’s finally warm enough, and my friends :)”

“How has CPS changed you as a person?”

3 people said CPS made them more confident:

“That’s a big question. I’d say the biggest way I’ve changed at CPS is that my confidence has grown a lot …  I’m more likely to speak up in class now than I used to be, because I’m less afraid of judgment if I get something wrong.” 

“I can do things now. Sounds stupid, but freshman year, everything was so intimidating. There are like four things that I currently am the leader or a member of that I remember sort of scoffing at when I was a freshman and thinking ‘I’d never do that.’ I have a lot more confidence now, I’m a deeper thinker. Also, I’m just more myself. I’m not ashamed to tell people my opinions, or the TV shows/music I like—kind of stupid things, it’s true, but it means a lot that I can at the way I am now and think that I’m telling the truth about my interests and my likes and dislikes. It’s really refreshing.”

Other assorted responses:

“1) CPS made me less confident in many ways. Because I’m constantly surrounded by so many talented and smart people, I have found that I often doubt whether I am smart and special enough to truly belong.”

2) I found my voice. … . especially, in the last year, I seized opportunities available at CPS to get my voice. I am thankful that our community is so open and supportive of people finding their voice, and it has definitely changed my life for the better.” 

“I think that the biggest thing is that I learned how to think critically and evaluate situations from many different angles, which has been so useful in so many ways in my life. I feel ready to have big and deep conversations and to collaborate with others and exchange ideas, which I know will serve me in college and beyond.” 

“Biggest regret/missed opportunity at CPS?”

4 people regretted not spending enough time with friends:

“My biggest regret is not spending more time with friends. Especially in junior and senior year, I spent a lot of time spreading myself too thin—doing homework, too many club meetings, etc.—and I missed out on a lot of time that I could have spent with friends.”

4 people wished they had talked to more people in the grade and branched out.

“I wish I had talked to more people in my grade. Once people settled into friend groups things seemed kind of set, so I didn’t really hang out with people outside of my group too much, which I really regret because there are so many cool and amazing people all around you and so little time.” 

Other assorted responses:

“Not going to enough sports games. I only really started second semester junior year, and I realized how much fun they are. People don’t go often enough!!! And it’s so awesome to watch your classmates do something they love and cheer them on.”

“1) Partners, I think it would have been a cool experience to be able to serve the community like that; there just wasn’t ever time in my schedule. 

2) Men’s shelter, for the same reason as Partners.

3) I kind of isolated myself sometimes and wasn’t very outgoing in trying to hangout with friends. I wish I had been more active socially.”

“Playing another sport, probably.” 

“Did you get excited about college once you decided on where you were going/got into schools?”

1 person responded “no.” 1 person had not made a decision yet.

17 people responded “yes,” most with a great deal of enthusiasm:

“Because the period of time for making college decisions spans almost five months and people get news at different times, my excitement didn’t really kick in until all my friends also knew where they were going.”

“Once I got accepted in December, I was still kind of shell-shocked and it took me about a week to process that I got into my dream school. Something that really helped me get excited was researching majors, classes, dorms, and campus traditions. Then I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait! Although, I will mention that I continue to go through phases where I start preemptively missing CPS, California, and my friends. It’s totally normal to be split between excitement for leaving and sadness, too.”

“I did. I didn’t think I was going to get into any more than one of my five choices. I celebrated each acceptance letter, and I have celebrated my final decision recently with the same excitement. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions through the whole process, and I think you should celebrate as much as you can because it’s a big deal! Feel free to be excited about it.” 

“Yes! It feels real, for the first time ever. It feels nice to finally have some pride in a place. It also feels nice to be wanted by a school.”

“Oh yeah. When I first opened my decision letters, I kind of trained myself to not have an emotional response, whether it was good news or bad news. So it took awhile for the euphoria to kick in because I kind of reacted like ‘Oh. Nice.’ or ‘Oof.’ but once I committed and started talking to other people from my school, I got super excited. I still am!”

“How can I deal with stress and anxiety during the school year, when I don’t have as much time to try new hobbies?”

3 people advised to take it day by day and enjoy the little things:

“:( I’m really sorry that that’s happening for you. Unfortunately, there are a lot of moments when school and work gets kind of suffocating. I’m not sure what specifically about school depressed you, but for me, school and the expectations to get good grades and do well were always these looming stressors and it all felt like a responsibility I’d never escape. What worked for me was I kind of made my perspective smaller. Take each day one day at a time, celebrate when you get through each assignment.” 

“I have gone through lots of periods of feeling the same way, and first, I’m really sorry that this is happening to you. Something small that ended up helping me a lot was focusing on really little things that I could easily control and use to bring joy back into my life. While it can be hard to fully commit to hobbies and fun activities during the school year, focusing on these small things was actually super wonderful. But, of course, working towards finding happiness is a difficult, rollercoaster-esque process that requires some less fun work, too. Reaching out to the school counselor has been instrumental for me. Sometimes you do honestly need that support to get you back to a baseline level of okay-ness. I believe in you and hope that things become easier for you (I’m sure they will <3).”

“Make a plan for yourself long term/get into an academic routine. You should allot a certain amount of time for your studies, a certain extracurriculars, and for having fun and relaxing.” 

5 people advised giving yourself breaks and prioritizing spending time with friends:  

“I’ve realized I should allocate my time and energy into things that will actually benefit me. So, instead of studying excessively for that upcoming math quiz, maybe I’ll just study a little bit and then hang out with my family. I don’t want to remember high school by the long nights or tedious study sessions. I want to remember the experiences and people that shaped me. It’s difficult to deal with the stress of school, but I always remember my larger goals. I’m pursuing an education for a reason, and I can’t stop now.”

Two people advised incorporating those hobbies into your school life/school year:

“Maybe bring one of those new hobbies to school as a common classroom or at lunch or a club, or just to show your friends?  I also found hanging out with friends and telling them about when I was stressed out was a comfort.” 

“As to how you [can] ‘be happy,’ unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. Things differ from person to person, and what works for me won’t necessarily be what works for you. However, you can adjust your life outside of school to be more helpful. As an example, you mentioned hobbies in your question, my suggestion would be to start engaging in those hobbies during the school year if you aren’t already, keeping the thing that gives you joy during your break as a consistent through the school year. Because at the very least, if the hobbies then start to add to those bad feelings, the hobbies are something you have control over whether you engage in them or not.”

8 people advised talk to a trusted adult like Rose, Sara LC, or an out-of-school counselor:

“That is totally normal! I spent a lot of my sophomore and junior year in a really similar situation. What helped me was getting a counselor outside of school with whom I could confidently talk about my anxiety. She helped me strategize so that my entire life wasn’t consumed by CPS, and we made a schedule that mandated that I spend my Friday and Saturday nights with my partner and my friends. Being on the other side of this situation, I now realize what I was missing was balance, and I was so much happier after I took her advice.” 

“If it really is getting to a really bad point and you feel like you can’t cope with this alone anymore, go speak to your advisor and to Rose/Sara LC. It may seem stressful, but these people are here to help you specifically… The school provides a very good support network and they want to see you thrive here—we’re not a cram school for that reason. I hope this somewhat helps you, and I really hope that you can get through this low you’re in, because I promise things only get better.” 

“How do I get into college?”

3 people advised listening Martin and Kate:

“Listen to Martin/Kate (but ask them questions/suggest things when you want to try something else), and finish your writing/researching as soon as possible.”

9 people said you should just be yourself, pursue what makes you happy, and not worry–you’ll get into college: 

“Be yourself, and pursue what makes you happy. You’ll match with the college that will help you do that.”

“Everyone at CPS is going to get into college, don’t worry about that. At the very worst, you’ll end up in a school that wasn’t your top choice, but is still one you could see yourself going to and enjoying.”

“Do what you love and do it as well as you can, rather than doing what you think will get you into college. However, you are a CPS student and you will get into an excellent college no matter what you do, so don’t worry about that. Really, there are so many excellent colleges in this country and the world and everyone from College Prep will get into one.” 

“You will get into college. There are so many incredible colleges out there, and there are countless schools that would be beyond lucky to have a student like you enroll at them. All you can do (and all you need to do) is to do your best and not compare yourselves to your peers. I know it’s hard, but you are all on your own path. Everything will work out, just trust in the process and BREATHE :)” 

“Is first semester senior year the last grades that matter for colleges?”

The 11 people who responded to this question answered in essentially the same way:

“Mostly, but don’t let your grades drop too much in second semester, especially if you have a merit scholarship.”

“To an extent. They are the last grades colleges see before making their admission decision, so they are the last ones that get you admitted or rejected. However, if your grades drop off significantly in the second semester, schools can rescind your admission. Basically, you can take it easy in the second semester, but don’t completely stop working.” 

“How bad is the senioritis of senior year second semester?”

10 people responded that it was pretty bad, but some responded that it was a “fun” kind of bad and some said it was still stressful (some also specified that this effect was likely magnified by COVID-19): 

“If you just deal with it like you would deal with a small child then it’s a lot easier to monitor. So basically, give yourself incentives to do work and you can get it done.

“It really depends on every person. For me, I got pretty bad senioritis, and honestly… I feel pretty good. I am still learning and participating, but just taking a break from the crazy stress that comes with working super, duper hard.”

6 people responded that it isn’t too bad

“[It] depends on your work ethic, and how interested you are in your classes.”

“How much expansion of social circles generally happens senior year compared to other years?”

7 people said they didn’t see too much expansion in their close circles. Many said they did become much closer to both their immediate friends and people they became better acquainted with:

“People generally talk to their closest friends more than anyone else, but that’s not cliquey, that’s just how friends work. What does happen is that by senior year everyone in the class basically knows each other, so they are able to talk, crack jokes, and spend time with people besides their closest friends.”

6 people also added that they mostly saw friend groups shift between sophomore and junior year.

5 people said that their friend groups (or people they are talking to) have expanded:

“I’ve met some of my closest friends senior year and felt a lot closer to my class.”

“It definitely felt easier to reach out to people that I hadn’t talked to as much because we all knew that we didn’t have much time left together…”

2 people said that friend groups become smaller in senior year:

“From looking at my own friend groups and other seniors around me, most groups actually shrink or split. It’s sad, but smaller groups definitely become tighter knit and it also makes you (at least it did for me) much more comfortable with them. When the friend group was so big, I wasn’t all that close with anyone and I was always a little closed off, but now that I have a smaller group I’ve for sure opened up more.”

“Any advice on ranking colleges if we only have a vague idea of what we want to major/focus on?”

9 people recommended evaluating the “general feel” of students/community 

5 people recommended evaluating the location

4 people recommended evaluating the size

3 people recommended evaluating the core values of the college

3 people recommended evaluating the “vibe.” (things that make you smile, unique classes, and people).

3 people recommended evaluating the school’s curriculum offerings (i.e., does the school have an open curriculum or does it have required classes that everyone must take?)

2 people recommended imagining what it would actually be like going there for the next four years. 

1 person recommended evaluating gender ratios.

1 person recommended evaluating teacher/student ratios.

1 person recommended evaluating diversity

1 person recommended evaluating dorms

Some other helpful recommendations students offers for evaluating a college:

Looking at student-run blogs, school newspapers, “school traditions” page of the college website, virtual tours, and reaching out to current or former students.

Also, this trick:

“Put aside your real world colleges for a moment, and come up with your ideal theoretical college and write down a list of its attributes, make sure you have at least 5. Then, once you have your lists of traits for your ideal college, take your real world colleges, and rank them on a scale of 1-10 for each trait from your ideal theoretical college, 1 being not that trait at all, and 10 being exactly that trait. Then add up your points and you will see which college gets closest to your ideal college. Another good one, especially when you come down to your last few choices is to roll dice or flip a coin, after assigning each side or number with a college. Now obviously, the roll is stupid and you decide off only a dice role, but when you do roll it, whatever answer you get, you will have a gut emotional reaction to that roll of whether that was a good or bad roll. That, theoretically, should help you decide once you know what you are hoping to get.” 

“What do you do if you fail a really important test?”

The thirteen people who responded to this question recommended meeting with the teacher, seeing if you could retake the test, make it up with extra credit, and work on strategies for the next test. 

“Stick by yourself, don’t beat yourself up. It’s one impossibly tiny blip in your life, which is huge and exciting. You won’t remember this test in 10 years. Academically, try to meet with your teacher and go through each thing that you missed with them. This can be kind of stressful, so I find it helpful to look up some of the core ideas that I missed ahead of time, and then bring them to my meeting to show my teacher that I really care about improvement! They’ll respect you a lot for that.”

“It sucks at first, but turning bad grades into learning opportunities is a lot better in the long run. Usually material you miss shows up on the final, so you should always try to do corrections to learn it properly.”

“How do you set up a meeting with Rose or Sara if you’re really awkward and shy like me???”

The majority of people recommended sending her an email: 

“It always feels super daunting to admit that you want some help/support, but… email is a great way to set it up and you can literally say: ‘Hi Rose, I was wondering if we could have a meeting sometime. My free period is X. When works for you? Thanks, Student’ Rose has no expectations of you and there is no wrong way to have a meeting or anything that you have to tell her or talk about. You get to decide what you want and what you feel comfortable with, so no pressure at all!”

“Email her! I met with Sara last semester for the very first time in my whole four years at CPS because I’m also awkward and shy! It was really helpful and less scary than I expected.”

3 people also suggested asking a PHIRE senior, a trusted friend/adult, or an advisor to set up a meeting for you. 

Also, you can go to the student portal > Resources > Student Support Services > Counseling and Student Support > appointments, or access here

Everyone emphasized that both Rose and Sara LC are really kind, welcoming, and 100% here to support you. 

“What factored into your choice of college?”

Responses included: size, location, traditional campus feel, research money (financial aid offerings, presumably),“vibes,” people, arts, faculty, open curriculum, average class size, proximity to relatives, food, opportunities for my interests/major, weather, culture, clubs, professors, similarity to CPS, former CPS students’ college advice, and help from Martin.

“Was CPS the right choice for you? Do you ever regret choosing CPS?”

 3 people said they had contemplated leaving or wondered if they made the right choice, but they said they are all glad they didn’t leave.

“I never contemplated leaving, but I did wonder if I’d made the right decision. I was wondering if I had gone to a bigger school would I be better off academically. At the end of the day, I may have had a couple more “A”s than I did at CPS, but I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as good of an education.”

All 15 people who responded to this question said no, they didn’t regret going to CPS:

“I have learned so much about myself and what it means to work hard for something…I also met some of the most wonderful people while at CPS and that made my entire experience so worth it. 

“CPS pushed me academically of course, but CPS also pushed me to 1) discover who I am and 2) be authentic to my identity. Whether that was coming out or not falling into groupthink dynamics, CPS made me feel more comfortable being me.”

“What’s the biggest/most important thing you learned during your time at CPS?”

6 people said that they “learned who their people are,” found a “deeper and more profound love for the people around [them],” and learned to be open-minded about meeting new people.

3 people said that they learned how to be genuinely and proudly themselves.

Others said:

“Hard work pays off. ” 

“Be mindful of others.” 

“Do what you love, not what you feel obligated to do.”

“Make sure to check in with your friends if they seem upset, or even if they don’t seem upset.  I’ve become a lot more aware of both my mental health and the mental health of those around me while at College Prep… If you’re feeling a bit lost, reach out to someone! The College Prep community is there to support you.”

“Take every opportunity you are given and then some. Go out of your way to make yourself available for experiences, and offer your abilities for things you have never learned how to do before. Nothing teaches you how to do something better than learning it under the pressure of wanting to get it perfect. Create new things, or improve the old.”

“Take risks, be interesting, have opinions and share them… This is the time for happy accidents, so try things and if they don’t work out, think of it as learning.”

“Don’t be competitive.”

“It’s okay to not fall radically-left wing on the political spectrum…. be confident in your beliefs, but also don’t be close-minded to other people’s opinions, too! Political open dialogue is everything, so don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone politically.”

“You don’t have to be perfect all the time and it is good to ask for help…”

“Any other advice you think people should know?”

“Get your driver’s license as early as you can.”

“Enjoy your time here! It goes by so quickly, so make the most of it :)”

“BE KIND TO PEOPLE because it feels so much better for you and for them. Also, do what you want!!!! Don’t do anything for college or to please other people. Focus on things that bring you joy, and make time for those things. Lastly, school is not everything. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in school and doing well and getting into a good college, but a lot of times that takes the fun out of everything. Enjoy your friends and hobbies because you won’t be here, at CPS, forever.” 

“Don’t worry so much about getting into college, it will happen and you’ll get into a great one.”

“Make sure you watch the sunset from a high vantage point at school at least once in your time here. It’s one of the most beautiful sights if you catch it on the right day. (Join drama or drama tech, it will be your best opportunity to do so.)” 


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