Kati attends a comprehensive public high school in Texas.

September

Tell me about your school. Is it a "normal," comprehensive high school, or a magnet or charter? How many students does it have? Have you been there for all your high school years, or have you moved there?

My high school is a generally “normal” high school—it’s public, has an enrollment of about 1,500 students, and covers a wide range of on-level, dual enrollment, and AP classes. I have attended this school throughout all four years of my high school career.

What is your sense of how many of the graduates of your high school go on to college? I don't need the official numbers, just your estimate of the percentage. What kinds of colleges do they go to? When it comes to going off to college, what's "normal" for your high school?

My graduating class is roughly composed of 300 students, and based on the last few classes I’ve witnessed, anywhere from a third to a half of those students will pursue higher education by going to a college or university. From there, it’s about 50/50; half will attend local community colleges, and the other half attend bigger public universities. Almost always, students opt to stay in state.

Is college preparation a big deal in your high school? Do people talk about college a lot? Is it assumed that you will go to college?

“College” isn’t discussed as much as preparedness for life outside of high school is. We have a next level counselor, who helps all grades with questions about universities, admissions processes, scholarships, and the like, but the counselors do make it known that there are other options besides going straight to a four-year university. Our teachers are a big help when it comes to college decisions, though, and are often the ones who push us to apply to dream schools. In the higher-level classes, such as the AP and dual enrollment courses (especially senior level ones), it is assumed that every kid will go to further their education.

How much direct instruction about college applications or choosing a college have you got from your school, either from teachers or counselors? 

I haven’t gotten a lot of help when applying for college so far. I know my school will host an application night later in September to help students, so I plan to attend that. It’s been what feels like a shot in the dark trying to figure out some of the forms!

Can you think of any good advice you've received about college applications from anyone at your school?

I think the best advice is the most basic, and that is to start early. Start looking and filling out your applications as soon as they open, so you’re less stressed your first semester of senior year. I began late August and I feel as though I’m lightyears behind the rest of the country!

Are there any colleges that you're already sure you'll apply to? If so, what are they? Is one of them your "dream school"?

The schools at the top of my list are Carnegie Mellon University, Johns Hopkins University, and University of Texas at Austin. The former two are huge reach schools, but they are wonderful programs for my major! That being said, I have absolutely fallen in love with University of Texas at Austin. It’s more affordable, closer to home, with a beautiful campus inside of a gorgeous city. I think I’d consider it my “dream school”.

What other colleges are you thinking about applying to, even if you're not sure you'll actually apply?

There’s a few other big name universities I want to apply to, but I’m a little reluctant. Columbia and Duke, along with MIT and University of California-San Diego are all colleges I’d love to attend, but are extremely costly and I fear the rejection letters that would come out of applying to all of them.

What colleges, if any, have you visited or toured? Did any of these tours stand out as being especially good or especially bad?

Earlier in the year, I toured Baylor University and University of Texas at Austin. Baylor was a bad experience for me, so I crossed that one off my list. For UT, however, I had the time f my life the few short hours I was there. There were times I nearly cried because I loved it so much!

What are the main things you're looking for in a college? 

The main thing I’m looking for in a college is first, how good their program is for my major, and second, the affordability. Although I can say I want to go to an Ivy League all day, I’m nervous on finding means to pay for such universities.

Have you talked with your family about money? Do you know how much you can afford to pay per year? Do you know how college will be paid for?

Paying for college is a really sensitive spot for my family. They’re pushing me to apply to as many scholarships as possible. But if I don’t get enough scholarship money to cover my room/board and tuition, I’m not sure if my parents would cover the rest or if I’d take out a loan. I don’t qualify for financial aid, so I have no help there, either. Because of all this, UT is becoming my best option because of their relatively low costs.

How are you feeling about college applications? Anxious? Confident? Confused? Explain what you're thinking and feeling as you get ready for this endeavor.

I’m actually really nervous to apply to college. I wish I could just fast forward this whole year and have already applied and been accepted! These next two months are extremely busy for me, because on top of applying for schools and scholarships, I audition for schools for theatre-based scholarships at the end of this month and lead in our school musical at the beginning of next! Between school, rehearsals, and work, I feel like I’m never using my time wisely, and I constantly have a feeling of dread. All that being said, though, I am so excited for college life! Thinking about finally being able to research and learn about my major makes me so genuinely happy, and I can hardly wait.

What do you not know about this process that you wish you did? What would you change about the past few years to be more prepared for this?

I wish I would’ve taken the whole process a little more seriously. I’m a good student, and have maintained a very high GPA, but I blew people off when they said, “Junior year is the most important year!” or, “Start looking at colleges sophomore year!”. I wish I would have compiled my list a little sooner, so I could have possibly toured my reach schools over the summer. I think understand how important the whole process is  a really big thing that every student needs to do, and preferably before senior year!