This month, we invited Eliza Kalenjian, a high school senior who worked with Popp & Associates, to share her personal perspective on the college application process in our June newsletter. Eliza’s insight can benefit all of us, especially current high school students. We loved working with Eliza and her family and wish her lots of luck in college next fall!
Can you tell us a little about yourself? What high school do you attend? What are/were some of your important extracurricular activities (feel free to mention meaningful positions and leadership roles)? Any thoughts about what you want to study in college?
My name is Eliza Kalenjian and I attended Ashland High School. Throughout my four years there, I was able to engage in a number of activities within the school. Firstly, I was president of my class for three years and planned a variety of events such as prom, graduation, and several fundraisers. Additionally, I played on the starting lineup of our varsity tennis team and was captain in my junior and senior years. Also, as a freshman, I involved myself in High School Democrats of America (HSDA) and in my junior year, I started a charter for the organization at my school. Through this club, I was able to participate in local politics by presenting potential legislation to the town committee, teaching phone banking seminars, and hosting voting registration drives for students.
Outside my high school, I also interned at the Massachusetts State House for my state representative for three years and worked on a campaign for someone running for state rep one summer. Following my political work in the past four years, I plan to study public policy in college.
When did you begin your college search and application process (what year in high school)?
I began my college search in January of my junior year. I had my first meeting with Mindy Popp in the spring semester and began touring schools in the summer.
If given the chance to redo your college search and application process, would you do anything differently?
I think I would have applied to more scholarship opportunities outside of the schools themselves. I kind of put those to the side during the college process because I did not think I would win anything, but in hindsight, it would have definitely been worth a shot. There are plenty of scholarship opportunities you can find within your town or other local communities that could be useful for you in the future so I would definitely suggest looking into them.
What aspects of the college application process were most challenging? What was the most fun? Were there any surprises?
Honestly, the whole college process is quite challenging, but the most difficult part for me was managing the supplemental work as well as my school course load. I applied to about fifteen schools and almost all of them had at least one lengthy supplement and it was difficult to finish writing all of them with the quality I wanted and make sure my grades were up to par. Personally, I found that the weekly assignments and due dates that Mindy set up for me were helpful in making sure I was staying on top of my work and not falling behind.
The end of the process was definitely the most exciting. Although waiting for the decisions is nerve-racking and the rejections are difficult to swallow, opening the acceptance letters was the most rewarding feeling ever. When I got into the schools that I was most anxious about, all the hard work and difficulty of the previous months felt so worth it in the end. I would highly recommend filming all of your reactions because they are fun to look back on later.
What advice would you give to high school students (grades 9-11) and their families regarding how they can best prepare for and engage in the college search and application process?
For students entering high school, I would recommend trying to become as engaged as you can in your community. Whether that means being a member of several school clubs or working with organizations in your town, find something that you enjoy participating in and would not mind dedicating several hours of your time to. For me, that was politics/social justice and although it was a lot of work interning at the State House and being an active member of HSDA, I was genuinely passionate about the cause and could write effective essays about why I believed they were important to who I am.
For students in the midst of their college process, I would say do not be afraid to go the extra mile for the schools that you really care about. When you are writing supplements, especially the “why us” essays, go out of your way to find an interview a professor gave and talk about it. Show the college/university that you really want to be a part of their community.
What college are you planning to attend and how did you make your final choice?
I am attending the University of Michigan next fall and I am so incredibly excited about it. Michigan was my top choice at the start of my college process because I felt it checked off all the boxes on my list. It has a perfect mix of strong and challenging academics as well as a vibrant and spirited social scene. I felt strongly that it was the right place for me when I toured and am so thrilled to be able to be a student there.
How do you feel that Popp & Associates helped you and your family?
I really believe that Mindy and Popp & Associates were instrumental in making this overwhelming process manageable and ultimately successful. During our meetings, Mindy was able to offer me a variety of useful insights on every school that I was applying to that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Her advice made me feel confident in the applications I was submitting and her work with my supplements taught me how to be a more effective writer. I would recommend her to any family about to enter the college world as without her, I do not feel that I would have been as competitive of an applicant.