Admissions Officer Insight: How High School Juniors Can Get a Head Start

Jennifer Gargano
Jenni Gargano, Dartmouth College, Assistant Director of Admissions

In your junior year of high school, it’s probably hard to escape the reality that you’ll be applying to college in the coming months. You’re probably already thinking about all the different parts of your application, from crafting your story through the personal statements to keeping your grades up in your challenging classes, on top of trying to enjoy your final year and a half as a high school student with your family and friends.

As an admissions officer at Dartmouth, I know we ask you to do a lot throughout the college application process – that’s why I want to share how the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program can help you on your journey. When I was a junior in high school (a long, long time ago, I know), I was a College Prep Scholar myself and attended the National College Admissions Conference at Stanford. Please believe me when I say that this opportunity was one of the most formative in my college search journey. My hope is that you could gain as much or even more than I did when I was in your shoes – and so I encourage you to give the application a shot to see what might happen.

Here, I’ve listed the top three ways the College Prep Scholars Program and application could give you a head start in applying to colleges in your senior year:

1. Get practice on your college application with the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program application

The College Prep Scholars Program application can prepare you almost like no other for your college applications. When you complete the College Prep Scholars Program application, you are not only applying for a program and opportunity, you are also gaining practice in writing about yourself through your essays and short answers, thinking about your activities and leadership for your extracurricular list, and asking teachers for recommendations. These are all things that you’ll be doing when it comes time to fill out your college applications. The College Prep Scholars Program application is a great opportunity to get practice at how to present yourself, develop parts of your application, and seek support from others – so take advantage of it!

2. Get inspired to write (or think about!) your college application essay

You probably have heard that your college essay is a vital component of the application. With the different writing pieces required in the College Prep Scholars Program application, you’ll see for yourself how powerful the essay portions can truly be. If you become a College Prep Scholar, you’ll also gain more insights into how to best craft an essay to share with admissions officers about your life and what matters to you.

The college application process is a time for introspection and reflection. It might even be one of the first times you have thought about these topics deeply: What do you like? Who do you want to be? What and who shaped you into who you are today? Through writing, you can learn a lot about yourself. And if you begin this process through the College Prep Scholars Program application, you might discover some of the stories that speak to who you are that you want to further reflect and focus on during fall of your senior year.

3. Meet college admissions officers to learn about different opportunities at a National College Admissions Conference

One of the best things about the College Prep Scholars Program is that it comes with an invitation to attend a QuestBridge National College Admissions Conference. If you attend one of these in person, you’ll get the chance to interface with admissions officers – like myself! – from a range of college campuses across the country. Have a question about a specific college partner or broadly about the college application process? You can get your answers here, maybe even from someone who might be reading your application next year. Whether at the college fair portion where you can go up to any admissions officer to say hi, pick up materials, and/or ask questions, or during the breakout group workshops where you learn about and tackle various components of the college application journey, don’t be afraid to ask whatever question is on your mind.

The National College Admissions Conference can also be a good time to learn about the range of wonderful colleges and find aspects of college life that “fit” you best. Just like the college essays are a time for introspection, thinking ahead about how you might want to spend your post-high school years – in a small town or a city, close to home or far away, etc. – is a critically important part of your journey. Take advantage of the 40 incredible partner schools and what they have to offer you. Who knows, you might just find the ones that match what you’re looking for or discover things you had never even considered before.

Lastly, I want to remind you to be proud of all of your hard work up until this point. By simply applying for the College Prep Scholars Program, regardless of the outcome, you will have taken a big step into realizing some of your post-high school goals.

By Jenni Gargano, Assistant Director of Admissions at Dartmouth College