By Sarah Swenson, editor-in-chief

January 1st heralds the beginning of a new year, full of new opportunities and the prospect of a new start. For seniors in high school, this new start is college. By January 1st most general application deadlines for colleges will have come, and with students’ applications sent off, all they can do is wait. Some students choose to apply early action or early decision. When applying early, students only send applications to one, or only to a select few schools to show those schools that they are committed to the college and dedicated to furthering themselves. These avenues boost students’ chances of admittance. Some of these students have already received their letters of acceptance or, less fortunately, denial or deferral, and placement on the waitlist.

Students apply early, and only to one, or only to a select few schools to show those schools that they are committed to the college and dedicated to furthering themselves. These avenues boost students’ chances of admittance. Some of these students have already 

Nantucket High School’s class of 2022 is full of excited students, some already committed to colleges that they foresee furthering their intellectual journey, fostering their passions outside of school in clubs and sports, and providing them with a home away from home in the coming years. Other students wait anxiously but hopefully for their letters to arrive.

Unsurprisingly, the process of applying to college has been stressful for seniors. It is something that, for some students, all of school seems to build towards. Kathryn Kyomitmaitee, yet uncommitted to a college, explained that managing time and all of the moving parts related to college applications was one of the hardest parts, and recommended making a schedule of deadlines to help stay on top of things

“I would also recommend trying to write your essays, especially your main essay that you submit to every college, as soon as you can so that you can have teachers/others proofread,” she added. “Cramming everything to the very last minute is obviously a situation that no one wants to be in.”

While college applications are stressful for everyone, the cause of the stress can differ. Maryann Vasquez-Cruz stated that “as a first [generation] Hispanic to go to college, applying for college is probably the most stressful thing I’ve done.”

She explained that “trying to educate my parent about how the college process works, FAFSA, scholarships has not been easy. I myself had to research a lot on how the college process worked, but it’s a lot to take in,” and said that her school guidance counselor, Christopher Miemiec, was a great help during the process of applications: “[He] has been very patient and helpful during this whole process. I probably wouldn’t have been able to without him.”

Guidance counselors are a great resource for all students at Nantucket High School, available to talk about anything from personal struggles, to class schedules, to plans after high school. Miemiec himself worked in college admissions before becoming a counselor, and whichever counselor you have will be able to help you get organized for college, work, or whatever comes next for you. Julia Chumak is the counselor for students with the last name A-F, Courtney M. Foster for students with the last name G-M, and Miemiec for students with the last name N-Z. Seanda Bartlett, who also works in guidance, is also available to help students through the college application process and to guide them in key aspects of their profile, such as community service.

Senior Justin Bloise also found that the support of guidance counselors was essential for the college application process: “I didn’t face any challenges on the college application because my guidance counselors and teachers were there to answer all my questions.”

Of course, the application process was affected by COVID-19, as everything has been. However, seniors note that the effect of the virus was not as intense as it was for the class of 2023. While some colleges were restricting or canceling tours, many have chosen to open up tours, with added restrictions of antigen tests or vaccine mandates to tour indoors. Class of ‘22 students can also commit to a school with greater certainty that they will indeed be on that campus in the fall, although some are still nervous that they will not be able to go in person. COVID has also affected the requirements for applications.

Vasquez-Cruz explained that COVID “brought on this “holistic” way of looking at college applications without requiring test scores.” Several seniors noted the same thing. Recently, Harvard announced that they would stay “test-optional” for the 2021-22 application cycle. While they are a high-profile example, many colleges are taking this route. Being “test-optional” means that students can choose whether or not they want to submit their SAT or ACT scores, and not be punished either way. Colleges understand that virtual school and the stress of living through a worldwide pandemic makes standardized testing especially unreliable.

Once students get past the application process, all that is left to do is wait. However, for students who applied early choice or early decision, or who were recruited, like Bloise, the wait is over. Some seniors are already committed to the school where they will be spending the next four years of their lives. 

Lily Richard committed to Syracuse University and said that she chose this school because “it was my favorite when doing college research and I loved it when I visited the campus.” She is excited about the new area and all the new people she will meet, but also sad about leaving Nantucket behind.

Bloise, who was recruited to play football at Sacred Heart University, said that he chose SHU because of “academics, culture, and brotherhood.”

Universally, it seems, seniors are eager to experience all the new things they will get to at college, but reluctant to leave behind the home they have had their whole life, including friends and family.

“Changing lifestyles from Nantucket to Boston is a drastic change for me, so I would have to figure things out on my own such as subways, bus routes, and locations but I will try to handle everything to the best of my ability,” Kyomitmaitee, who has applied to mostly colleges in and around Boston, stated. However, for her, the urban environment of Boston is actually a draw: “I specifically chose these colleges since I wanted to be close to Nantucket while also being able to live in a city for the first time in my life.”

Kyomitmaitee is not the only one to find location influencing college choice. Bloise explained that “the Fairfield Connecticut area reminds me of back home (Nantucket)”. Further, “the football team/coaches made me feel like I was a part of the family even before I was committed.”

Students leave behind one family when they go to college, but they have the opportunity to gain a new one.

Still, getting there is a challenge. For those who will be applying to college in years to come, these seniors have some advice. Richard emphasized that colleges are looking for growth and improvement through high school. This is something that NHS stresses every year when students choose their classes for the upcoming school grade; colleges want to see you take classes that are a challenge for you personally, and they want to see you take more and more challenging courses as you progress through high school. They want to see your extracurriculars, community engagement, and academics improve as you get older, reflecting maturity and dedication. Schools would rather see a student making slow and steady improvement than one who loaded themself down with difficult classes freshman year and struggling to pass. Wherever you are, colleges want to see you improve.

The seniors also stress that getting into a good college starts sooner than many think. “Start the work early, and take time for things that may not seem pressing, like community service and engaging with the school community through clubs or sports,” Bloise recommended. “Keep your nose clean!”

“I would highly recommend keeping up with grades, extracurricular activities, volunteering, sports, and self-character,” Kymitomaitee agreed.

Colleges also look for those who show ambition and drive, those who reach beyond the opportunities handed to them.

“I know that sometimes you may feel hesitant to say “yes” to something or to push yourself but in my opinion, it’s the most rewarding feeling, having accomplished many things despite being in situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Push yourself so that you have no regrets and do what you feel like you need to do in order to set a path of where you want to go,” Kymitomaitee challenged students.

Vasquez-Cruz also emphasized that students should try to identify their passions, and focus on pursuing them: “ If you have something you know you want to do when you grow up, start acting now. Build connections and get involved. In this small community, you’d be impressed by how much you can do.” Nantucket is a small town, so opportunities are limited, but so are students, so you have a good chance of getting somewhere if you just ask.

Take initiative, keep your work consistent and your reputation clean, and soon you will be applying to college like all the wonderful seniors this year. 

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