Guide to the class of 2013 senior panel

Some of the top colleges in the country are going to be attended by Carlmont seniors

Graham Godwin

Some of the top colleges in the country are going to be attended by Carlmont seniors

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Thursday night in a packed student union, students and parents gathered to listen to a panel of graduating seniors who were chosen to speak about how they personally got through the college admissions process.

The 6 seniors were: Amir Abedrabbo (University of Santa Barbara California), Daniel Bereket (Stanford University), Laura Ong (Princeton University), Gianna Dimick (University of Santa Barbara California), Sydney Smith (University of Los Angles California), and Lauren Bruguera (Brown University).

The presentation began with Connie Dominguez, who is a guidance counselor at Carlmont, lauding all members of the panel for their hard work and dedication towards both academics and extra curriculars  throughout their four years at Carlmont.

Dominguez also commented, “that this could be the last senior panel that follows the present format.”

Dominguez then went on to ask the panel a series of questions specifically about the college admission process. These are some of the questions that Dominguez asked, and the answers that the panel gave.

Describe how you narrowed down your college search? 

Daniel – “At first I was overwhelmed by the amount of colleges, and I knew there were a lot of colleges I had not looked into at all. I narrowed my search by using supermatch on Naviance, this matched me up with a large range of colleges that had what I was looking for. The easiest way to learn about colleges is word of mouth, just by talking to people, I was able to narrow down my search to a couple of schools.”

Sydney – “I was able to narrow down my college search, by word of mouth and taking college tours. Taking college tours was really important to me, I felt this was the only way to completely know I liked a school.”

Gianna – “I really was able to narrow down my college choices by looking for schools that met my requirements. At first a big factor for me was getting as far away from home as possible, with that in mind I really was interested in some schools on the east coast, like Boston University and Syracuse University. I also had a private counselor who helped me narrow down the schools that I was interested in.”

Laura – “I was really interested schools that had the vibe which I was looking for; that was a school that was filled with people who were primarily focused on academics. Basically a school full of nerds! I felt like I’d be much more comfortable in an environment filled with the same people for me.”

Amir – “I knew I wanted to stay in California, so I focused my search on mostly schools in California.”

Can you share a strategy or mindset that helped you stay on top of the college process?

Amir – “I made a good list. A list is absolutely critical for the college admissions process, the list is what got me through the process. It helped me stay on top of the countless amount of deadlines and other important dates.”

Daniel – “I know this is going to be tough for the juniors to hear, but the college admission process starts now. It is absolutely critical that you get ahead of the game and start your applications this summer. Junior year is definitely a burden, but so is first semester senior year. Its just as difficult and with all of these applications things can certainly begin to weigh you down. Thats why its so important to get a jump on things this summer so you can keep your workload at a manageable amount.”

Laura – “I agree with Daniel! Get a jump on things this summer that way you can ensure that you put the best work into your applications! Also make sure that you do a lot of drafts for your essays, I did a ton of drafts and my final product was much different compared to when I started.”

Gianna – “Again, start your applications this summer! I started mine in August and was able to not feel to overly overwhelmed during first semester. Its really important that you stand out on the essays, its the one way you can give these colleges an inside look on who you are as a person outside of school. Another lesson I quickly learned through the college admissions process is the amount of usernames and passwords you quickly accumulate. There are so many that you need to keep track of, I recommend that you make an address book that holds all of your usernames and passwords.”

Lauren – “Regarding staying on top of the essay, I also started mine in the summer. At first I was having trouble coming up with what I wanted to say, I had so many thoughts swirling through my head and I really wanted to make sure that my essay really brought out who I was as a person. It was really difficult to narrow down what to write and at the same time ensure that I was presenting myself to colleges in a reputable way. I got over this by just writing what ever came to my head, and from this the essay writing went a lot smoother and I was able to successfully convey who I was as a person.”

What kind of extracurriculars were you involved with outside of school? 

Lauren – “I was involved in basically all kinds of preforming arts, I’ve been heavily involved in Carlmont choir and I also did the musical all 4 years here at Carlmont. Outside of school I dance at a dance studio which I’ve been doing for a long time. I also volunteer at the dance studio by basically helping out anyway that I can. I’m interested in the medical field so I volunteered also at the Sequoia hospital.”

Sydney – “Basically my extracurricular outside of school is dance, I’ve been dancing since I was 2 years old and I’ve been practicing 5 hours a day ever since. Like Lauren, I volunteer at my studio and teach classes to younger kids.  Last year as a junior I was accepted into Julliard, but I was looking for a school that had a balance between the arts and academics.”

Gianna – “My main extracurricular revolved around journalism, I’m proud to have been involved in 24 editions of our newspaper the Carlmont Highlander. I’ve probably given close to 1000 hours to the newspaper as a photographer, staff writer, section editor and this year as editor in chief. Through journalism I’ve been presented with numerous awards for both my photography and my writing. But I also did other things around school, I was involved with numerous clubs and did water polo and swimming here at Carlmont.”

Laura – “I did a lot of extracurriculars that revolved around the arts. I’ve been playing the piano since a young age and today I volunteer by helping kids learn how to play. I also am involved in choir here at Carlmont. Sophomore year I started a Philosophy club which I’m now the president of, it was cool to see the club grow each year.”

Daniel – “I developed a love for music at a young age, so playing the trumpet makes up a huge portion of my extracurriculars. I play in a couple of prestigious groups that have traveled around the country. Sophomore year I discovered my love for running, at first I thought I was going to suck and it wasn’t until my senior year that I really began to enjoy consistent success. This year after training hard all summer I was able to place 11th in the statewide cross country

Some of the top colleges in the country are going to be attended by Carlmont seniors

Some of the top colleges in the country are going to be attended by Carlmont seniors

meet and I’m racing in the state race for track this weekend. My involvement in running is a testament to the idea that you don’t know how good or how much you’ll enjoy something till you give it a try. So I advise all of you to continue to branch out and look for new opportunities because you’ll never know what you might find. ”

Amir – “I think the key to finding an extracurricular is finding something that you’re passionate about, show the colleges that what you do with your free time is really meaningful and important to you. For me that was working on cars and playing soccer.”


Here is a summary of the main points that the panel presented: 

  • Do self reflections, figure out what kind of person you want the colleges to perceve you as. 
  • Submit your applications early! Don’t leave it to the last moment, you have no idea what kind of tech problems you could run into on the day of!
  • Be genuine about your accomplishments, colleges do random audits to make sure what you’re telling them is true. You don’t want to be that person that gets caught lying on an application!
  • Senior year is HARD. Don’t leave your essays for the fall, get a head start during the summer so you’re not stressed out in the fall.
  • Visit colleges, there are a ton of things that colleges can’t convey to perspective students on their website. Before choosing a college make sure that you’ve traveled there in the flesh, that way you get a first hand encounter with the place you’ll be spending the next 4 years of your life.
  • Colleges are looking for genuine people with genuine interests, don’t present yourself as somebody your not, because in the long run, colleges are going to want you at their school for who you really are, not some phony persona.
  • ESSAYS MATTER A LOT, don’t blow them off! This is your chance to show the colleges who you really are!