Surviving Twelfth Grade

by Alejandra Quintana

Right now, as a member of the APS Class of 2019, you might be experiencing one of these three moods:

Regardless of how you currently feel, I will try to ease your journey through your last year of high school. I’ll list some helpful steps that will guide you during the college application process, and I’ll also include essential information that I learned during my senior year.

The secret to getting ahead is getting started.

Mark Twain


During the months before you start your senior year, make sure to explore your academic interests and learn about potential colleges and areas of study. Below are some of the steps I recommend taking during this time period:

- Take the SAT in June for the first/second/third time. If available in August, you can take it then if you want. If applicable, take the ACT.

- Think about your interests, passions, skills, and experiences… how do you see yourself in four years? How would you like to get there? Are you undecided, but eager to explore many possibilities?

- After thinking about these questions, do some research and narrow your college options (initially, a great number is ten). Consider location, size, courses and departments, study abroad programs, internships, community, diversity, student life, financial aid, and any other factors you think are important. I recommend using websites like College Board’s Big Future, Niche, or the lists from U.S. News.

- Identify whether your colleges are in the Common Application, Coalition Application, or another type of application, since this information will be valuable eventually.

- The Common Application is usually available by August 1, but you can register as early as late June. Make sure to fill out the required information so that once the application opens in August, you can begin discovering the requirements for the colleges you are interested in.

- Fill out the FAFSA, which, if I remember correctly, should be open by October. But, just as the CA, you can fill out the information earlier.

- Choose whether you would want to include a resumé or a CV for your application and start filling it out. Remember to include academic achievements, extracurricular activities, summer programs, work experience, internships, community service events, etc. Here is an incredible website that helps you build your resumé for free!!!

Also, here’s a free CV template:

- This summer, try to participate in a summer program that demonstrates your continuous interest in a specific area of study, whether it’s healthcare, creative writing, or business.

- Start brainstorming ideas for your college essay… DON’T PANIC! (just as written on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Your essay should reflect glimpses of your identity, personality, dreams, aspirations, relationships, or any other aspect of your life that you, and only you, think defines who you are in a profound, meaningful way. For now, only brainstorming is key.

- List four high school teachers who have contributed greatly to your academic and personal growth, and I recommend choosing those who have taught you more about the areas of study you intend to pursue.

- Apúntaloooo: Seriously, you’ll need it. If you haven’t sent your autobiography, do so ASAP.

-Prepare to challenge yourself academically and, simultaneously, engage actively in the clubs and organizations you are passionate about. Also, don’t forget to enjoy the entire college application process; letting admission officers know who you are, what motivates you to pursue your interests, and how you contribute to your school community is incredibly satisfying!

Intermission: SAT/ACT

Some may dread it, some may act indifferent towards it, but the SAT/ACT is a decisive component of the college admission process. Whether you’ve already taken it, plan to take it, or marked it as done on your to-do list, here’s what I learned:

  • Remain tranquil. If you stress out too much before or during the test, your mind won’t allow you to concentrate on the questions.

  • Remind yourself that you will try your best and that no one can dictate what you are capable of achieving.

  • Also, bear with me, learn and have fun! Try to find some sort of joie de vivre in the passages and problems!

  • Take it as many times as you can. In my case, the third time’s the charm!

  • Khan Academy is great and free!

Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.

Winston S. Churchill


During the first months of senior year, finish your college list and begin drafting your essay. Decide whether you want to apply:

  • Early Decision. If so, you should have your essay ready by late September or early October, since the deadline is November 1.

  • Regular Decision. Have your essay ready by October or November, since the deadline is January 1 (and you want to enjoy the holidays).

  • Rolling. This basically means the application will be open within a certain timeframe and you can submit it as soon as you want.

I recommend having the essay ready as early as possible, so that you can focus on the requirements for each college and their respective writing supplements.

Apart from the essay and the many writing supplements, visit each university website to make sure you submit all of the required documentation in time.

Depending on your application deadlines, remember to fill out the transcript request form. In a nutshell: if a college is on the CA, you don’t need to mail it; if it’s on the Coalition or any other independent application, you need to mail it; if it’s in Puerto Rico, you need to mail it.

Study arduously, participate in your clubs’ activities, and enjoy time with friends and family!