How I Got Into a State University


๐Ÿ’ฌ Student Stories

Hi! My name is Iqra H. (she/her) and I'm a rising sophomore at Arizona State University. I'm a biomedical science major and hope to add an Arabic minor in the upcoming year.

๐Ÿ‚ Junior Year: The Beginning

By the end of junior year, I knew that I wanted to apply to both in-state and out-of-state schools, but I was completely clueless about the college application process. My advisor told me that the first step was to create a list of schools to apply to based on these loose guidelines:

  • At least 2 safety schools
  • Your grades and test scores may exceed the school's range
  • Above 75% chance of acceptance
  • At least 2 target schools (grades, test scores fall within the school's range)
  • Your grades and test scores may fall within the school's range
  • Between 30% and 75% chance of acceptance
  • At least 2 reach schools
  • Your grades and test scores might be on the lower end of the school's range
  • Under 30% chance of acceptance
  • - Schools like Harvard are reach schools for everybody!

Other things to consider when creating a college list are offered majors, class size, student to faculty ratio, housing, campus environment, and campus size!

My finalized college list looked like this:

Standardized Testing

In the past few years, we've seen a decline in the importance of standardized testing with several schools choosing to become test-optional. However, if you choose to take a standardized test, taking one during your junior year can be very helpful. I personally took my first SAT in December of my junior year and looked at it as a benchmark to study off.

Some people might prefer to take the ACT and others might prefer the SAT. Take one or take both! Colleges don't have a preference and all colleges that require testing will accept both.

Things I Wish I Knew During Junior Year

Letters of Recommendation: It's never too early to ask for letters of recommendation! By senior year, most teachers are swamped with requests and may reject your request or write you a subpar letter. Most schools will require two letters: one from a STEM teacher and one from a humanities teacher. Make sure to ask a teacher who knows you well!

Tip: create a brag sheet or resume with all of your accomplishments to send to your recommendation writers

Essays/Personal Statements: It's never too early to start brainstorming! Colleges may release prompts early on in the year, giving students ample time to start brainstorming, outlining, and writing their essays.

โ˜€๏ธ Summer: The Middle

Summer was the perfect time to relax after a tumultuous junior year, but it also gave me the opportunity to stay involved with the community and participate in summer activities. I took advantage of the two months of break to study for the SAT, volunteer, and work on getting my black belt.


Let's face it: college is not cheap. The summer before your senior year can be the perfect time to research and start applications for scholarships. There are a wide variety of scholarships available from the regional level to the national level and some even have very specific requirements like being tall or wearing glasses!

Tip: Create an excel sheet of all of the scholarships you want to apply to, their requirements, and deadlines for easy organization.

๐ŸŽ“Senior Year: The End

During senior year, the idea of college suddenly became very real. Before long, application deadlines were quickly approaching.

Applying to ASU

I applied to Arizona State University through the Arizona State Application Portal which is unique in that it does not require any letters of recommendation or supplemental essays. ASU is also test-optional, but to be considered for scholarships, I was required to send in my SAT score report.

To be accepted into ASU, I had to meet certain aptitude requirements which were to be in the top 25% of my graduating class or score a 22 on the ACT or score an 1120 on the SAT or have a 3.0 GPA.

ASU was one of my safeties, but it was also one of my top choices because of its location, size, scholarships, and offered majors!

Personal Statements and Essays

While the ASU application required neither, I applied to the other colleges on my list through the Common App. The personal statement is often regarded as one of the toughest essays to write, and for good reason. For my personal statement, I chose the prompt about overcoming obstacles but the common app includes lots of different prompts to choose from. Your writing should tell a story so choose a prompt that you're passionate about!


There's no such thing as the "best" extracurricular to get into college. You do not have to be the founder of an organization or build schools in another country. The most important thing is to be consistent with your extracurriculars. The common app only allows up to 10 activities, so choose activities that you are passionate about or that you have dedicated a significant amount of time to! Some activities I included on both the common app and the ASU application portal were Science Olympiad, FIRST Tech Robotics, National Honor Society, Taekwondo, and a school Mentorship & Leadership program.

Things I Wish I Knew During Senior Year

College Counseling: Don't be afraid to talk to your college counselor or advisor if you have one. Their job is to help you with the application process and they can help if you have questions.

Managing Stress: This is an incredibly stressful time in the life of a high school student. You may be juggling a job, extracurriculars, and college applications on top of coursework. The best thing to do is to step away and make time for yourself every day. Hang out with friends, paint, or read a book, the possibilities are endless!

School: Just because you're a senior now doesn't mean you can start to slack off. Colleges will still see your course load and your grades for your last year of high school!

๐Ÿค” What Now?

After deadlines had passed, I finally felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. But it wasn't the end, I still had to wait for decisions to come rolling in. Arizona State and a lot of other state schools will release decisions on a rolling basis which means that they accept and respond to applications continuously as opposed to waiting until a specific deadline. So while I had received my acceptance to ASU in early October, I still had to wait until March for every other school on my list.

Dealing With Rejection

Rejection, or fear of rejection, is a normal part of the college application process, but that doesn't make it any less painful. The most important thing to remember is that rejection is not the end and that it does not define you. Take time to process your emotions and get excited about the other colleges on your list, especially if you've already received acceptance letters from them!

Just remember, you are not alone in this!


Guide Outline


Admissions Process
College Essay
College Interview
I'm a...
The Application
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