Alumni speak on college application process, life after high school


Photo by Sara Shohoud

The panelists discussed the ins and outs of the college application process.

By Leila Salam and Sara Shohoud

On Thursday, Aug. 29, the college a panel of six alumni spoke on the college application process at an event hosted by the PTSA. Held in the auditorium to a packed audience of parents and students, the panel of graduates from as recent as last year to as far back as 2015 clarified uncertainties about the college application process by recounting their own experiences and offering advice and reassurance for prospective applicants. 

2015 graduate Nathan Lee, who is currently attending American University in Washington D.C. spoke about the difficulties of choosing a school, especially with the focus on “top schools.”

“The application process is very difficult because basically, there are thousands of four year credit institutions in the United States and even more community colleges around the country, and picking the right one for you is a daunting task,” Lee said. “We tend to focus on the top US report 100 schools from Harvard to Columbia, but there are a ton of institutions out there that specialize in a variety of disciplines.”

Lee and the other alumni at the panel, which included Brenden Koo (’19), Liliana Adler (’16), Ryan Wu (’18) Caleb Chai (’18) and Amanda Sun (’18) encouraged current students to take advantage of the multitude of opportunities offered on campus.

Joining clubs exposes students to new, unconventional activities and allows them to find their passions, which can help in the college search, Lee said. Students are able to choose from the 57 diverse clubs, ranging from Mock Trial to anime club.

“If you can really find your passion or the thing that drives you, I think that really can push you in the right direction when it comes to making the right choice for your college,” Lee said.

Conversely, alumni warned that joining many clubs could cause confusion for some students who want to explore what they are truly interested in and advised students to slow down and consider their options.

“Of course it’s exciting to get a job offer and to be like ‘this is my dream job,'” 2016 graduate and current San Jose State student Liliana Adler said. “But to come and find out later that there is actually a job that is ten times better that you wish you had taken … It’s super important to consider everything, more so than just the one that seems the best. You need to really look inside and find the best.”

Brenden Koo, class of 2019 and a current student at Stanford University, described what he learned from his high school experience.

 “My biggest regret was, really just not doing the things that I wanted to do earlier,” Koo said. “Right now is the time for me to really do what I want to do.” 

Ryan Wu, who graduated in 2018 and now attends UCLA said that when high school students get a rejection letter, they often think, ‘what could I have done differently?’ Wu said a question like that almost always dovetails into ‘Why didn’t I do something like that differently?’, which, he said, is not a very constructive question to ask, because the past is unchangeable.

 “I got accepted into one school, and it was UCLA,” Wu said.”I was one of those people who thought ‘Harvard, Yale, Stanford, how hard could it be?’ And sixteen rejections later, I learned how hard it could be.”

The panelists went through the ins and outs of the college application process.Koo said he believes many students see a rejection or an acceptance as a measurement of how capable they are, when in reality admission to a school does not reflect anyone’s potential. 

“Your life does not end with an acceptance or a rejection because there is so much that happens after you get rejected,” Koo said. “You have to just keep moving, because if you don’t face rejection right now, you are going to end up being one of those people who has to pay $500,000 to get into a school that you couldn’t get into because you have never faced rejection before. Rejection is healthy.”

This panel was one of many speaker events being organized and hosted by the PTSA this year. The next event, a talk by bestselling author and speaker Harlan Cohen, is scheduled for Sept. 25 in the cafeteria. See for more information.