The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

The Student news source for West Shore Junior/Senior High School

The Roar

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College-app upgrade

Seniors adjust approach in attempt draw UF’s notice

As Anjani Sharma shuffles through the essential sections of the college Common App, she meticulously crafts her competitive profile — each detail carefully curated— in pursuit of acceptance into her dream schools. From running her nonprofit “Minds without Borders” to taking on a demanding course load, Sharma navigates the delicate balance between her extracurricular commitments and academic rigor.

“This is a challenge because I’m still taking [Advanced Placement] classes senior year, but with other obligations, it’s been very stressful,” Sharma said. “I haven’t gotten very far in the application process. I think the best way [to complete applications] is to utilize my weekends. I knew [this year] was going to be busy. School and college apps are really equal to me right now, so I prioritize both.”

Last year, UF admitted 14,136 students, a drop 730 acceptances from the previous year. But the change in West Shore acceptances appeared even more striking, falling from 54 students from the Class of 2022 to 30 for the Class of 2023. In addition, Edgewood Jr/Sr High, West Shore’s primary rival, sent 33 to University of Florida last spring.

“Doing niche clubs and extracurriculars that people don’t know about and stuff related to the community helped me get into UF,” said Gianna Fernandez, a 2023 Edgewood graduate. “I also tried to have at least one extracurricular for every facet of life: one for academics , one to keep me active and one for something I am interested in. I spent a decent amount of time with each club and activity, which truly helped me get in.”

Principal Rick Fleming said he believes the drop in acceptances among last year’s graduates was a result of  students failing to capture their struggles in their personal statement in ways that show resilience.

“As a leader in college admissions and college applications and everything college, West Shore has traditionally sent sometimes up to a third of our graduating seniors [to the University of Florida],” Fleming said. “We were a little shocked because that number dropped to maybe 25 percent. [We] usually don’t get that much of a drop.”

Omar Mujeeb, who gradated last spring, said the essay plays a pivotal role in application success.

“Students struggle with [the essay] because they don’t think they have anything special about themselves, so they turn to a sort of generalization writing about their life as a whole,” Mujeeb said. “What can make an essay stand out is diving into those smaller details that you may overlook. These small things can paint a picture about you without having to tell your whole story.”

College Counselor Angela Feldbush said that top schools like UF aren’t just looking for students for exceptional test scores and grades. She said students should constantly be going back and revising their applications.

“People assume that they’re going to be able to get into UF because they’re very well qualified, and aren’t necessarily putting as much editing and thoughtfulness into their application as they need to,” Feldbush said. “There were kids that were equally as qualified on paper with equal test scores with equal numbers of AP classes that didn’t get in. It’s so puzzling when you look at the numbers to try to figure out why two kids, that on paper have the same qualifications, one will get in and the other one doesn’t.”

West Shore offers 29 AP courses, and Mujeeb said he was not aware of how useful the numerous AP courses he took would be until post-graduation.

“When I came to UF, I didn’t realize how many more advanced classes I took compared to other students,” Mujeeb said. “Taking a lot of AP’s is a normal thing for West Shore students, whereas for other schools across Florida, there’s not that competitive drive among the students to take a lot of AP’s. Being able to integrate a very advanced curriculum while still integrating extracurriculars paved a clear path to being able to succeed at a higher level of education.”

However, Sofia Schaafsma, who also graduated last spring, said the school’s emphasis on academics creates a disparity with its emphasis on community engagement and activities.

“In all honesty, I think West Shore likes to believe it does a better job of preparing students for college applications than it does in reality,” Schaafsma said. “Setting students on a fast track isn’t enough to give their resumes and portfolios that necessary competitive edge when pitted against other students. I think that there is a decreasing emphasis on academics and test scores in college acceptances, and that’s pretty much the only thing that West Shore sure emphasizes. They want you to take all of these AP classes because they believe that colleges are looking for advanced students, but I think they’re looking to see how you reflect your personality in the things that you are passionate about. West Shore needs to emphasize clubs and community activities more, but that creates a sort of conundrum due to the sheer amount of work they give students. It’s just not feasible to be a member of multiple clubs and several extracurriculars while trying to maintain stellar academics.”

Anylah Rembert, who graduated last sping, now attends Columbia University. She said ticket to an Ivy League school hinged on more than just academics.

“I had good grades and high test scores, but those can only get you so far,” Rembert said. “The things we choose to fill our time with showcase a lot about our interests and our values, and I think having a lot of seemingly impressive activities [such as] class president, [attending] summer programs, [and being a member of the] National Honor Society isn’t necessarily going to get you into [top] schools like these. In my opinion, what’s really important with extracurriculars is having some sort of focus, whether that be music, politics, science or whatever you plan to pursue in college. For me, that was STEM, so I made an effort to tie in almost all of my extracurriculars to that one discipline. My advice for current high school students trying to get into any prestigious college is to showcase the best aspects of your personality through your application. It shouldn’t be just about what you’ve done throughout high school, it should be about who you are.”

Just before graduating from Edgewood last spring, Nishka Dalal secured her spot at Duke University.

“I was definitely not expecting to get into Duke because I had been deferred from the early decision round, and they take very few deferred candidates,” Dalal said. “But I could not be happier because it was my top-choice school. [It] just goes to show that a deferral isn’t a rejection.”

Amid the various challenges that students face when applying to college, there’s a common understanding among students that the admissions process isn’t ideal.

“Overall, college acceptance is about fit,” Rembert said. “If you fit with the mission of the college, then your chances of getting in are far greater. It is important to remember that there is a high degree of randomness, and the admissions process is far from perfect. You shouldn’t tie your worth as a student to what schools you get into.”

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About the Contributor
Mariam Hassan
Mariam Hassan, Staff Writer
I'm a junior, and this is my first year on staff. During my spare time, I enjoy hanging out with friends, enjoying beautiful sunsets, and working inside a 20-foot ice cream cone. I'm looking forward to writing and sharing stories with our school community.