Have you ever heard a high schooler say that applying to college is not that hard? I didn’t think such a viewpoint was possible. Every fall King County Library system runs a series of “Life After High School” programs, and so many of the college discussions I have with teens and parents at Newport Way revolve around stress. However, the Newport Way Library Teen Volunteer Council has shown me that with a little change of perspective, the college application process can be downright exciting.
The Newport Way Library has a council of dedicated teen volunteers who meet every month. They work on everything from making book suggestions for the teen area, to assisting with children’s programs, to planning teen events for the library. Last winter they were brainstorming about problems in the community and how they could fix them.
Teens: “I think everyone has too much stress about school and college.”
“Yeah, it seems like there are so many opportunities in Bellevue that people think we have to be good at everything.”
“It’s so hard to know what to focus on.”
“I wish we could just have some of the seniors at my school who have already gotten into college tell us how they did it.”
“We could have a panel of high school seniors come to the library to speak about how they chose a college and what the admissions process is really like!”
Librarian: “What a great idea!” “We should do it!”
That’s how the “Finding Your College” panel, put on by the Newport Way Teen Volunteer Council, was conceived. Several of the teens went back to their schools and started letting seniors know that they were planning this event for the end of the year and would be looking for speakers. I also invited all the senior members of the teen council, some of whom had been members since freshman year.
We ended up with a panel of three high school seniors representing The University of Washington, Harvard, and Northeastern University. The Teen Volunteer Council put together the questions for the panel and two of the students took turns moderating the event. It was an amazing evening.
The students answered all the questions honestly and without drama. The audience was especially interested to hear a panelist say, “The college application process is really not that hard. There don’t need to be any surprises. You can find out everything you’re going to have to do – and even look at the Common Application – ahead of time. Start your application early so you can do a little at a time and not have to get all stressed out.” Another panelist pointed out that extracurricular involvement is really about spending time on something you love doing -- something you’re passionate about--and finding ways to volunteer that relate to your interest.
The teen panelists demonstrated a perspective that left a lot of the audience feeling as if college applications are more like an exciting challenge, and less like a daunting chore. Thank you so much to all the teens willing to share their knowledge and collaborate with the Newport Way Library to help our community grow!