Don’t Be Worried About College Apps, Mrs. Marwick’s Got Your Back!

By Riley Pult

At Benicia High School we are lucky enough to have our very own College and Careers counselor, Mrs. Marwick. According to the College and Careers page on the BHS website, the BHS College & Career Center is located just off the Main Quad in room H109. The website offers information for Freshman through Seniors. It’s never too early or late to consider your options after high school, even if you have no idea what you want to do.

Mrs. Marwick doesn’t just work with students headed to college, she makes sure every student understands the options open to them. If college isn’t for you, Mrs. Marwick helps you discover military options or skilled trades. When it comes to applying to college though, Mrs. Marwick is a huge help and encourages many students to come to her for help. She has wonderful advice.

Many students struggle with knowing how many schools to apply to and what schools they should use as safeties. Safeties are schools with higher acceptance rates, that means you have a higher chance of getting in. Mrs. Marwick recommends applying to around 7-10 colleges overall. “However, the number also depends on the competitiveness of the colleges you’re applying to and your major. For example, students shouldn’t apply to only UCs because most of them are fairly competitive at this point. So, you want to apply to colleges with a variety of acceptance rates. One to two of them should be “reach” colleges that are harder to get into, the middle should be colleges that are a good match for your GPA and have acceptance rates in the 40-50% range, and the last two should be colleges that you are likely to get into and have an acceptance rate over 50%. 

However, if you’re applying to impacted majors (majors that more people are applying to than there are spots available) like nursing, any type of engineering, or computer science, you need to apply to even more colleges. That being said, each application costs money (UC and CSUs are $70 each), so you need to balance the number of colleges with what your family can afford. There are fee waivers built into the UC and CSU applications, and if you qualify, you get four campuses per system for free.”

She also ran through some common mistakes she sees on students’ applications. “There are several mistakes that I see fairly often. First, not considering how important the essays or UC Personal Insight Questions are. It’s your opportunity to let them know who you are besides your GPA. Think of it as taking the place of an interview. Especially for highly rejective colleges (low acceptance rates), it’s what can set you apart from other applicants.” It’s true, the PIQ’s have become one of the main points of admission for UCs. Take them seriously and don’t wait until the night before to write them. “Second, not applying to enough or a variety of colleges.” Make sure to vary it up based on the acceptance rates of schools! “Next, students submit their applications and then ask me questions! It’s still fixable, but it’s more work for the student.” Mrs. Marwick usually holds sessions during access as college application dates get closer, and they’re super helpful for making sure everything is spotless.The last issue she often sees is “waiting until the last minute to get started or submit. This just adds to the stress and pressure, and there is less or no time to get your questions answered. Also, if you wait until close to the application deadline to submit, servers can crash, or we’re on Thanksgiving Break. Plan ahead so you can be calmer and get the help you need.” 

She advises that, “Students should start searching for colleges at the beginning of Junior year. Besides making sure the college has their major, students should think about what’s important to them in terms of size, location, size of the city the college is in, cost, etc. Visiting some campuses is ideal, even if it gives you an idea of what you don’t want. I offer four field trips per year to nearby colleges, so look for posts in the counseling Google Classroom about those.

Students can’t start working on the applications until August 1st for UCs and October 1st for CSUs (private colleges will vary). However, students can start working on their UC Personal Insight Questions and Common App essays during the summer between Junior and Senior year.” 

Here are the questions to get started:

Link to UC PIQ:

Common App prompts: 

Students often get tripped up over what sorts of extra activities they should have listed on their applications. Mrs. Marwick has some tips for that. “Sports, clubs, church activities, volunteer work, jobs, etc. [should be included]. Colleges love when you’ve stuck with an activity over a period of time, if you’ve taken on a leadership role in some way, or started up something on your own. It’s also important to include if you’ve worked or even taken care of younger siblings or older family members. Anything that shows responsibility, commitment, or leadership should be included!”

The topic of college can be stressful for many students so it’s important to manage your time well and keep calm. “It’s a tough time. Applications can be stressful to balance with your other school work, and everyone starts asking what your plans are after high school, which adds to the pressure. On top of that, after you submit your applications, you typically don’t hear back from the colleges until March. I call this being ‘on the hook.’ Once you do hear back, you have to deal with processing where you got in and where you didn’t and trying to make the best choice. It can be super stressful! The biggest thing that can help is talking to me or your counselor. I think we all try to stay strong in times of stress when we should be leaning on others. Supporting students is what counselors do best! I also recommend that students try to stay flexible with their plans. Life can throw curveballs our way, and I think it’s how we react that determines our quality of life. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be upset if you don’t get into your top choice. Just that you may have to take a different path than you expected. While that’s hard now, it will likely be okay in the long run.” 

Mrs. Marwick offers some great advice during such a stressful time. Make sure to reach out to her if you have any questions or need support! 

Mrs. Marwick’s Email: 

College and Careers Website:

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