My College Application Journey (Applying to Colleges, Receiving Admission Letters, and Getting Waitlisted at Cal)

example spreadsheet!

Working at the campanile and meeting many of the newly admitted/waitlisted students, as well as many prospective students looking into colleges and deciding where to apply, I couldn’t help but reminisce back to when I was a high school senior doing the same, and reflecting on how those experiences led to where I currently am today. So that being said, I decided to use this opportunity to share my experiences as a high school junior and senior and how I found the right college for me. I know that not everyone will agree on what type of college they would want to attend, but hopefully, this post will help you realize where you’d like to be.

Although my high school wasn’t the most resourced one, one of the few perks it did have was a college readiness course that all juniors were required to take. In it, students were allocated the whole hour a week to do whatever research we needed to see what colleges we wanted to go to, and how to apply to those colleges (even if you don’t have a course like this, I’d highly recommend you allocate at least a bit of time at least once every few weeks to do the same, just because there are so many colleges (and so little time!)). Being an indecisive person with too many college options to look at and not enough time to research them all, I started off by taking one of the many “Find my College” surveys that websites like Collegeboard or Niche provided online to see which options were recommended for me based on my college wants and needs.

Once I had that list, I added some more colleges that I was thinking about applying to (and also included the names of colleges that gave me a free application because why not?) and created a college spreadsheet with the first column being the names of all of those colleges, and the first row being the general information of that college (including the college’s name, admissions category (whether it was safety, likely, match, or reach school), the state it was located in, its distance from home, size, net price, graduation rate, possible major, etc.) and a list of all of my personal wants and needs for a college (which would probably be different for you, but for me included things like internship opportunities, recreational sports, certain extracurriculars, work-study/research opportunities, extracurriculars, college spirit, and being close to home).

I then filled out that general information with a tic as to whether or not it satisfied the specific wants/needs in that column. Then based on the amount of money I reserved to apply to colleges, I finalized which universities I wanted to apply to and went from there, touring the different colleges (I highly recommend it!) and taking note of what I liked or didn’t like about that university (for the UCs this would be for personal use, as all of your personal essays on the UC app will go to all of the UCs, so you don’t want to name any particular UC in your application) and started writing my essays and applying for colleges.

example spreadsheet!
example spreadsheet!

Receiving my college admissions letters, I was pretty happy to hear what colleges I got accepted from. Interestingly enough, getting accepted to my dream school (which ironically was a different UC- I’ll let you guess which one;)), was a lot more underwhelming than I thought. I assumed that getting in would be the happiest day of my life, but in reality, I didn’t really feel anything. But then I got wait-listed from Cal, and getting that letter was more disappointing than I could ever have imagined. And despite not thinking I wanted to go to Cal, it was then that I realized that Cal was where I truly wanted to be. So I stayed on the waitlist, wrote the extra personal essay, went to Cal Day anyways (which made me want to go to Berkeley more than ever), and a few days after Cal Day I received the letter full of confetti, and it was at that moment in my biology community college class that I checked, involuntarily screamed, and had one of the best days that I’ve ever had.

So to those of you who’ve gotten accepted, congrats! But those of you who got waitlisted, I just wanted to say not to worry, as the waitlist isn’t always a bad thing. Because for me, being on that waitlist made me realize where I truly wanted to be, made me work hard ever since, and made me realize how lucky I am to be here, and that I wouldn’t want it any other way. So whatever school you choose to go to, even if it’s not Cal (although Cal would definitely be a good choice;)), I have no doubt that you’ll find your community and your home (because I definitely did:)).

(And for those of you who were rejected from Cal, you’ll find your home too (but also, maybe grad school?👀))

Author: Josephine Lee

Hello there! My name is Josephine (she/her/hers) and I am currently a 3rd year student majoring in Public Health with a double-minor in Chinese and STEM education through the CalTeach Program, a pre-teaching program for undergraduate students. In terms of extracurriculars, I am a part of CalTeach, American Red Cross (ARC) at Cal, and an intro to cardiology course I co-facilitate with a few of my peers! I also volunteer at a nearby rehabilitation center, and was a part of GBO as an orientation leader (and now mentor as well!).