I’m only a junior this year, so I’m not allowed to officially say I have senioritis, but as the semester draws to a close, it sure feels like I do. I’m sure many of you, as I was, are disappointed by how technically the senioritis can’t really kick in until after the application season is over, but don’t worry! You’re almost near the end! I remember what it was like being in your shoes and looking back on it, three years out, it still is one of the more stressful times of my life.

As a senior in high school, I applied to 11 colleges, mostly in California (in-state for me!) and some in Massachusetts (very, very out of state). There were students in my high school graduating class who applied to 25, and some who applied to 5, but my high school counselor gave me the best advice for making my list: it’s not the number of schools you apply to, it’s the types. Safety schools, target schools, and reach schools, throw them all in there and hope that something sticks. So, instead of applying to 25 reach schools and emptying my wallet and sanity, I was strategic and chose to apply to a healthy mix of safety, target, and reach schools, including USC, Caltech, California State University Northridge, UCLA (I’m sorry fight on), Berkeley, MIT, UC San Diego, Harvey Mudd, and other UC schools, California State schools, and out of state schools. (Below is my friend Danica, who encouraged me to apply to USC at the end of my junior year!)

The first three schools I applied to were MIT, Caltech, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in November. This meant that by the time I started writing my application for the 8 other schools I applied to, I already had two acceptances and one waitlist (Caltech and I will face again in the 2021 graduate school application season). I am so grateful that this did not stop me from sitting down and completing more applications, though; if I had stopped right then and there and gone with the choices I already had, I would never have ended up at USC, and my life would have been very, very different than it is today.

Even if you’re applying early action to schools, keep writing applications and applying to places that interest you! Wait for as many responses as you can before you make a final decision. It may seem tempting to accept the first great offer that comes in, but if all of your schools are tied to the May 1st deadline, give yourself enough time to think things through, talk about financial aid, talk to students from the school, research the department you’re interested in, learn about student organizations and life on campus, figure out what housing is like, and learn what your next four years would look like, so you can pick the school that is the best fit for you.

My college application essays were all written thoughtfully and with a lot of time devoted to each. I had a list going into college application season, but when acceptances, waitlists, denials, and scholarships started coming in the mail and online, the list completely changed, and I had to evaluate each school with a new mindset. So take time to fill out each application, and follow up with every school that looks interesting. And I can speak from experience–it’s ok if you apply to UCLA too, you’ll be forgiven, as long as you choose the best school when the time comes! Fight on, good luck with applications!

Christina Najm

Christina Najm

MAJOR: Environmental Engineering YEAR: Class of 2021 HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, California PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @tina.najm On campus I conducted undergraduate research in wastewater treatment technology through the environmental engineering department and am involved in Alpha Omega Epsilon (a social and professional sorority for women in STEM), the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and the Society of Women Engineers.