This week, our student blogger Neel D. '21 looks back on his college application experience and shares advice for other high schoolers. 

I remember hitting submit for my last college application on January 5th, feeling such a relief I could go back to enjoying life. After 16 different applications that had deadlines spanning from November to January, I just could not wait for my immediate future to be decided by my application readers.

Normally, I ditch my original plan and go along with the ride as the ideas flow in, but I was not expecting this to happen during the most important academic step in my life. Even before I had to write essays, I remember sitting on Zoom last spring with our College Counselor Ms. Irving at the College Bootcamp, where we learned about the application center and the necessary information we had to fill out before starting the applications. Two days for three hours each was not my ideal time, but I am fortunate to have been through it.

During the summer, I wanted to get started on my essays. I picked a few colleges I definitely knew I was applying to and read over their essay prompts, sitting in confusion. Why do students despise writing these essays, these look like a great opportunity to express themselves? My momentary excitement led me to just write, write more, and write even more. Within a week, I had a few pages worth of essays.

But each day that I wrote these essays, a question kept appearing in the back of my mind: “What major should I apply for?” While it is not a requirement to know what you want to major in for your applications, I wanted to start my career path early. My interest in the theory and application of numbers immediately led me to math, but for some reason, pure math just never clicked with me. I thought about statistics and data science, but that did not stick with me either. I wanted to pursue a major that compiled many of my interests, so I thought about psychology, only to realize the sheer amount of biology in the coursework. At that point, I just wrote about anything that came to my mind, excited to get back to school and share my ideas with the faculty. Spoiler alert, I changed to economics. The opportunity to help my community, but also receive great job placements through economics, is one I could not pass up.

Walking into College Counseling class for the first time felt like I was actually going to college. I had talked to previous year’s seniors about the class and college applications, so I knew I was heading in the right direction. I was able to work with Ms. Irving often to improve my essays while also showing some to my teachers. I remember the first application I submitted, excited for what was to come. Two weeks later, I received my acceptance letter and was beyond ecstatic, but little did I know this was going to fade away. I did not apply Early Decision to any college, so I was waiting for months to receive my other college decisions. In came more acceptances, deferrals, and, unfortunately, a rejection. But I would not trade my college application process for anything else, despite all the bumps in the road I had, whether it was picking a major, crafting the right essays, or even just making sure I applied to the right colleges for me.

By the time this is published, I may or may not have received all of my decisions. But now that my process is over, I thought I would share a few thoughts with rising high school students about college.

I spent so much of my first two years in high school adjusting to a new school and curriculum that I never stopped to think about college. Think about college! Ask the people around you about college and start to find your interests early on. I did not pick my focus until around October, but I wish I thought about it earlier so I would have more time to do projects or research in economics, my area of interest.

Follow your passions! BASIS Independent McLean has so many options to choose from when it comes to extracurriculars, and I wish I did more extracurriculars at BIM itself (although student ambassador is the best). The moment I heard about student ambassador, I knew I had to be one because of my community service in elementary and middle school. Without even realizing it, you will be involved in the activities you are passionate about, and colleges want to see that.

Most importantly, have fun! High school is an experience you will cherish for years to come, so don’t miss out on anything. BASIS Independent McLean does a great job of hosting events for the student body, so be sure to enjoy all of what the school holds. In the end, have fun, but the more aware you are about your future, the better off you will be.

I look forward to seeing the BASIS Independent McLean network expand across the country and the world. For all the admitted students, good luck! You are in good hands!