College Planning Workshop prepares juniors for college application process


Emma Lam

They all sit around circular tables, looking up at the Powerpoint in the front. Some of them look scared, some of them tired, but theres one thing they all have in common.

They’re eager to learn.

The second session of the College Planning Workshop on Thurs. March 16 had to be held in the Career Center because of Chinese Placement tests happening in the library. Guidance counselor Monique Balentine continued on normally in the cramped environment — first greeting the class warmly and then transitioning into her Powerpoint that dealt with the topic of the day: Secondary School Reports, or better known as SSR’s.

The SSR process is just one of the topics that Balentine hopes to cover over the five week course, with other topics including finding colleges to apply to, choosing a major, managing deadlines and applying for financial aid.

“I think my main goal has always been to make [college applications] seem less scary,” Balentine said. “[I want] to be as concrete as possible so that when you actually do the college app, you’ve seen it before.”

Frequently asked questions that Balentine receives from juniors attending the workshop center around what college applications are and why there is so much emphasis on the essays.  

Junior Esther Chang decided to sign up for the workshop because she was unfamiliar with how to write college essays. She stated that her first impressions of the class were that it was a bit pointless because the majority of the time was spent on the computers, but then she quickly realized that there was more to it than meets the eye.   

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Juniors line up in preparation to explain the SSR process to guidance counselor Monique Balentine. Students were required to be familiar with the process after reading the Powerpoint and were sent back to review if they could not explain fully.

“I went home and I was like ‘well, I guess it kind of helps because I got to look at websites of colleges which I probably wouldn’t have done on my own time,” Chang said. “So this class kind of forces you to do stuff [and] be on top of your stuff.”

Similarly, junior Grace Luo also came to the workshop with the intent to widen her knowledge about college and scholarships opportunities.’

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Junior Grace Luo searches for colleges that use the Common Application on The worksheet handed out in class required students to use Naviance and list at least three colleges that they would “apply” to during the SSR process simulation.

“I [had] started my own UC portal type of account and I also got a common app account,” Luo said. “But I didn’t really know anything in terms of like actually applying. I knew about the SSR process already from seniors and talking to them but I had like a pretty bare bones knowledge.”

For both Chang and Luo, the College Planning Workshop serves as a means for them to get a head start on college applications.

“If I didn’t take this class I would just be at home doing nothing,” Chang said. “I’d have to try to figure it out on my own, so here you have other people around you that you can talk about it with and also Ms. Balentine to help.”

Those who couldn’t sign up for the workshop can still see their counselors for all this information.