Senior Class Impresses with Elite College Acceptances

Here’s how they did it.


Jackson Olenick, Staff Writer

Decision day (May 1) is almost here, and students in the Class of 2021 are finalizing their college decisions. Whether that be through last-minute visits and information sessions, comparing financial aid packages, or putting down your enrollment deposit, the college process for seniors is almost over, and it is time to make one final decision as to where seniors will continue their education. 

However, this year is much different from previous application seasons. The ongoing pandemic has had a profound effect on who is applying to colleges, the materials in their application, and, of course, the college’s acceptance rates themselves.

As of now, seven Ivy League institutions (excluding Cornell University, which has yet to publish their admit rate for the class of 2025) have reported their acceptance rates decreasing by half, which can be attributed to fewer spots for the incoming class. Additionally, test scores have played a role in how college admissions decisions have changed for the class of 2025. With the majority of schools opting for a test-optional policy, many students are no longer held back by the possibility of low standardized test scores, emboldening them to apply to their top colleges without hesitation.

Even with colleges becoming more competitive, LFHS students have still been offered admission into elite colleges. However, these students, even with their dazzling accomplishments, still hold firm on their robust beliefs about continuing their education after high school.

“Lake Forest is a place that obsesses over numbers simply because they’re easy to crunch,” senior Kailey Albus said, who will be attending Emory University next fall. “A sophomore can look at a senior who graduated with seven APs and think, ‘I need to do that; that’s how I get into school,’ but I did almost the exact opposite. I took a total of four APs, I never pushed myself to take an honors math or an AP science, and in turn, I took all of the English and history classes I could. I never wanted to pretend like I was a STEM whiz, because I knew I could lean into my interest in humanities. I focused heavily on creating a robust resume of activities, but I never did anything for the sake of my reputation with admissions departments.”

Senior Ben Andreesen, planning to attend Johns Hopkins University, agrees with Albus’s notion. “I definitely think that it is extracurriculars that make you more appealing to colleges. Joining a sport or volunteering, especially when it is something you enjoy doing, makes you a more well-rounded student that colleges look for” Andreesen said.

This ethos of well-roundedness and authenticity that LFHS students follow is not dissimilar to what many higher-ups in the academic field feel about college admissions in the 21st century. As former Harvard University president Drew Faust said, “elite schools in the U.S. are looking for more than academically enthusiastic students: they’re looking for students who can show true initiative and committed, focused interests beyond the classroom.”

With many admissions offices across the country taking a holistic approach to review their undergraduate applications – trying to look at the whole applicant and not reduce them to a single test score or GPA – it is more important now than ever to try your hardest to stand out among the applicant pool.

“[Prestigious universities] really want to see other involvement within your high school and community,” senior Callie Birtman said, shortly after committing to the University of Southern California. “Whether it be volunteering at Bernie’s Book Bank, participating in LFHS’s Career Shadowing Day, or being captain of a sports team, colleges want to see that you are actively engaged, as they want this type of student at their school. It is so important to get involved within the community at LFHS, and we are lucky because there are so many different ways to do so, whether you are involved in music, acting, sports, debate, or environmental club.”

In recent years, colleges’ emphasis on extracurricular activities has grown considerably for applicants. Colleges encourage students to participate in activities that will help them clarify their career goals and guide them toward the undergraduate degree program that fits their passions best.

“If you’re really interested in a major, for example, medicine, I think it helps to show interest by interning at a doctor’s office, volunteering, and writing about your experience in a supplemental essay,” Birtman said.

As these students have made clear, there is not one single recipe for acceptance to any single college. No matter where this year’s seniors plan to attend, all seniors should be extremely proud of their accomplishments throughout high school and excited for what they will accomplish in the future. As senior Kailey Albus said, “College success should be celebrated, not revered or categorized by competition.”