The Cracking Glass Bridge from High School to College

An insight into preparing for the rigorous journey to the college of your wildest dreams.
The Cracking Glass Bridge from High School to College

The college application process is often regarded as daunting by high schoolers worldwide, but it doesn’t have to be seen this way. The key to being a stand-out applicant from a pool of thousands of seniors is to know exactly how to overcome the glass bridge from high school to college – every step should be meticulously taken and this is how to do it.

The most crucial aspect of the college application is a student’s academic transcript throughout high school. As Harvard University stated, it is important for students to focus on high academic achievement and to maintain an excellent GPA. Admission rates at elite colleges and universities are at an all-time low. For instance, Yale accepted 4.8% of its incoming student body, whereas UCLA accepted 10.8%. Students should challenge themselves with demanding coursework, such as honors classes or Advanced Placement classes offered by the school to maintain a unique facade. These honors and AP classes boost the weighted GPA of a student, which top colleges often seek in their incoming student body. 

For instance, at East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy, students are able to opt for AP classes beginning sophomore year. ELARA offers 8 APs, ranging from languages to the arts. It is required for students to receive written recommendations to be enrolled in an AP class. Only 33% of each year’s class can take AP classes because they are immensely demanding. Most students receive a passing score of 3 on the AP Exam. These courses set individuals aside from the average high school students when college admission officers review their transcripts. Persevering through these rigorous college-level courses showcases that students are fortified to experience the real deal. Moreover, receiving a 3-5 on the AP Exams also enables students to receive college credit during high school, which could possibly lessen the time and money spent during college. Although honors and AP courses can be difficult, they greatly contribute to a student’s application by presenting work ethic and intellectual ability. 

On top of taking challenging classes, sustaining an exemplary GPA is necessary to become a stand-out applicant. Receiving titles such as valedictorian, or salutatorian, in your graduating class will unequivocally put you in the ‘unique’ pile in the admissions office. No matter what classes a student has chosen through the 4 years of high school, exceptional grades will higher the chances of admission. However, it doesn’t mean that colleges are looking for students who have received merely As throughout their high school careers. Students can still be accepted without all As, but it’s important to have more than a C to be marked as a competitive applicant. 

Although academics are immensely critical, it is not the only factor being considered by the admissions officers. College applications implement a holistic approach, which brings other factors such as extracurricular activities and achievements into the picture. Extracurricular activities can vary from sports to internships, small businesses, volunteer work, and school clubs. 

“My main advice would be to highlight extracurricular activities. I think it’s easy to think that GPA and academics are the only things colleges care about, but they are really looking for students who are well-rounded, which means students who are involved in extracurricular activities, whether that’s clubs, sports, or leadership,” said Ms. Perez, the biology teacher at East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy. 

Extracurricular activities tend to showcase the vibrancy of an individual’s personality and interests in the admissions office. It is important that students handpick the extracurriculars that best represent who they are as a means to highlight their uniqueness. It’s even better if these activities align with the field in which an individual wants to major in because it shows a commitment! 

Moreover, awards are also an outstanding signal of academic achievement. Whether these awards are on a local, state, or national level, colleges covet students who go out of their comfort zone to win awards and recognition for their hard work. Students can win awards by simply entering small competitions such as for writing, debating, and playing musical instruments. There are also plenty of scholarships available to high schoolers, such as the National Merit Scholarship, which all high school students can qualify for after taking their PSAT, and the Questbridge College Prep Scholarship, which juniors can apply to for financial awards and more.

Although doing all this for college applications sounds easy with words, it takes a powerful mentality along with an intense commitment to successfully achieve. Make sure to be mentally and physically present throughout the four years of high school. Students must pay attention to the lectures provided by teachers and take notes to look back on for finals. Try to not procrastinate on assignments and study for tests that will go into the grade book.

“When studying for finals, communicating with the teacher is key. Making sure you know when the test is and what is going to be on it is super important. Also, make sure to fill out your study guides and visit office hours if you have questions,” said Ms. Espinoza, the counselor for juniors at East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy. 

For AP courses students, they should spend the second semester of the year studying for the AP exams. Students must receive a score higher than a 3 to receive college credit from the College Board. Ask the AP teachers for assistance if needed and take the mock exams that are offered to all students on the College Board website. It is necessary that students become familiar with the format of the exam so that they are comfortable on exam day. 

“Always keep up with notes, that’s always going to be useful when we start preparing to review for AP Exams. We do have AP Readiness field trips that we’re taking this semester, so I would say join them if you want to,” advised Ms. Cruz, a history teacher at East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy, on becoming fortified for the AP Examinations.

All these steps in preparing for college applications seem like a lot, but it will be worth it in the future. Although higher education isn’t mandatory for a successful career, it proffers an abundance of connections and experiences that could contribute to an individual’s life. For example, it could establish life-long friendships and bring prestigious internship opportunities from professors and alumni.


“I think that college gives you a lot of opportunities. You’re also exposed to a lot more cultures and you get to know yourself more. I do recommend it for everyone even if you end up majoring in a field you don’t end up working in,” said Ms. Perez when asked about the benefits of going to college. 

Despite what the public view on higher education is, it is unequivocal that they greatly benefit the personal growth of a person. There are a lot of paths that students can take after high school. It doesn’t always have to be a 4-year bachelor’s degree at a prestigious college. 

“Even if it’s not college, there are different options that you have as well like community college, vocational school, or technical school, and maybe other certification programs,” commented Ms. Cruz, when asked about a student’s future after high school. 

All this information may seem overwhelming at first, but students will start to get the hang of it as they go about their high school years. It is crucial that students start preparing for their applications to their dream colleges as soon as possible if they’re set on that decision. More time will enable more strategies for preparing for college applications. 

“Students should start their college exploration in 9th grade. This is when they can learn about the different opportunities available and start thinking about what careers they might be interested in. By the second half of Junior year, students should have a college list already created so they can review it over the summer before applications open,” advised Ms. Espinoza, when asked about how early students should start preparations for college. 

Preparing for college is a complicated process but with detailed research, it will ease the process. Teachers, counselors, staff members, and parents are sources of great advice and assistance. Working on applying to colleges will definitely become overwhelming at a certain point, but it’s essential to note that there are many people around in your environment to help you.

At the end of the day, going to college does not signify success and not being able to go to college does not signify failure either. Thus, when you’re walking across that cracking glass bridge from high school to college, ensure that you are fortified with all the resources you need and hang onto the hands of your teachers so that you don’t fall through. 


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