My Experience Applying and Committing to College


Majeed Koroma

A candid moment of graduating senior, Zara Koroma, sitting on the gate outside UC Berkeley

The college application process is truly a daunting task and if I had the choice…I would never do it again. From trying to find a school that was the perfect fit to writing dozens of essays, I never thought applying and committing to college could be so complicated.

Where it All Started
My college application journey began the summer before my senior year when I randomly decided to make a list of all the universities that piqued my interest. It would be an understatement to say that my college list was long; however, it did give me a wide range of schools to look into.

My long list of universities––which would eventually be cut in half––was filled with CSUs/UCs, liberal art colleges, HBCUs, private schools, and even a few women’s colleges. After a great deal of research, I (not really) narrowed down my list and figured out which type of university environment would be best for me.

I do admit that this final list eventually grew bigger as I began to think that there was no way I could actually be accepted into my top choices. That being said, I do not know who needs to hear this, but you do not need to be like me and apply to a laundry list of schools because you falsely believe you will get rejected by 99% of them. While some of my application fees were waived, I wasted a lot of money and time on schools I would never attend even if I got accepted.

If I could go back in time to where it all started, I would tell myself to only apply to a few safety schools, a few match schools, and then my top schools which were more difficult to get into. This probably would have saved me a great deal of stress.

Procrastination and Applications
Whoever said that senior year was the easiest grade in high school lied because last semester was truly the hardest time for me. That first semester of senior year proved to be more difficult than any other semester I endured as I tried to balance moving houses, achieving good grades, and applying to colleges all in the midst of the pandemic.

I thought with online school that the college application process would be easy, but senioritis and distant learning do not mix. All I wanted to do was relax and not fill out applications when I had free time, so I kept procrastinating until a few weeks before the deadlines.

Procrastination is not your friend when it comes to college applications; and honestly, I think my application would have been better if I started drafting my essays earlier (as much I want to believe that I work better under pressure). Your college essays are one of the most important parts of the application and are not something that should be done in the middle of the night when you are half awake.

Since I applied to so many schools, I spent the last several weekends of the semester writing and revising my personal statements. The end of 2020 marked my personal end of submitting college applications, and all I could do afterward was anxiously sit and wait for results that determined the next four years of my life.

Letting Go of My Dream School
If you ever knew me in high school, I probably told you that my dream school was NYU; and truth be told, that highly expensive institution all the way across the country was actually what kept me motivated throughout my time at Canyon. Every time I found myself slowly burning out, the thought of possibly being accepted into NYU would fill me with a drive that kept me going for a few more weeks.

You tend to look at your dreams in a more realistic way when you get older, so it was no surprise that my romanticized image of NYU began to falter after I submitted all my applications and began the waiting game at the start of 2021.

I started to question if I was ready to leave California and embrace the tough city life; unfortunately, the short answer was no. By the time I started to receive my college decisions, NYU was no longer my dream school, and I instead hoped that I would get accepted into one of the top schools in California.

And the Results are…
While my colleges released decisions through the months of February to April, I was doomed to repeat the cycle of checking my email, seeing the headline “Application Update,” and then feeling my heart beat with the fear of rejection. However, that vicious cycle was met with success as I got accepted into 13 out of the 15 schools I applied to.

While I had a lot of schools to choose from, I knew that I was destined to go to UC Berkeley as soon as I got the acceptance letter. UC Berkeley checked all my boxes: relatively affordable, far but still in California, located in an urban area, and great academics.

Once I committed, everything strangely fell into place. I fell in love with the campus, found a great roommate, and was even offered a great scholarship that eased the financial burden. UC Berkeley was not the school I envisioned myself attending or even getting accepted to at the beginning of my high school career, but after such a chaotic application season, I am glad that everything worked out.