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Discovering Carleton: Looking Back At My College Application Journey

Bennet talks about his college application journey and shares tips on how to succeed throughout the application process.

Bennet talks about his college application journey and shares tips on how to succeed throughout the application process.


Hey folks,

Hope y’all are doing well where you are. I can’t believe it’s already been 27 days since I moved into Carleton College. I’m really happy to be in this wonderful community of beautiful, smart, and funny people. Since I arrived on campus, I have received a lot of texts from my friends about Carleton. Most of our conversations always end up with the one question and comment:

“How did you get accepted into a competitive school like Carleton?”

“Bruhh, you are so smart.”

Indeed, it is not easy to get into Carleton. My college application journey is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do. In short, it is a classic “never give up, work smart” story, with a lot of lessons to help you apply to college.

It all started in 11th grade…

In 11th grade, I joined the Misongi College Access Program in Cameroon. This was to acquire the skills needed to apply to colleges. I learned how to write personal statements and college essay prompts, to practice for the SAT, and (most importantly) to complete the Common App. The process was demanding, especially because I was going to school.

I didn’t get in

During the 2019-2020 admission cycle, I applied to eight schools and was rejected by all. I was shocked because I had put in a lot of work to craft my application; I thought it was a masterpiece. Later on, I discovered that my low SAT score might have put me at a disadvantage. Despite the pain I felt during this time, I decided to take a gap year after high school and focus on applying to colleges.

Discovering Carleton College

After doing so well on my final high school exams, I immediately started looking into various colleges to apply to. Initially, I wanted to apply to a different school but ended up changing my mind. My mentor then recommended Carleton College to me.

After the first online information session, I knew that Carleton was the place for me. Although I didn’t remember everything from the info session, I was certain of the fact that Carleton has a friendly and supportive community. This is what I wanted from a college.

Applying to Carleton

The map shows my whole journey of applying to Carleton College
My application process for Carleton College.

I decided to apply to Carleton during the early decision round. Though excited, I was a little nervous because I was not sure that I would be accepted. During that time, I discovered errors I had made in my first application: namely, poor recommendation letters and unrevised personal statements. Below are some points on how I applied to Carleton College for the 2020-2021 cycle.

  • Standardized Testing: Due to COVID-19, I was unable to take another standardized test. Since Carleton implemented a test-optional policy, I did not need to submit any test scores.
  • Proficiency Test: As an international student, I took the Duolingo English proficiency test to confirm that I’m fluent in English.
  • People: I was constantly in touch with my counselor, teachers, mentors, and Carleton’s Admissions Office. Most importantly, I paid a lot of attention to how my teachers and counselor filled out their recommendation forms. This was because they did not present some of my school information the first time I applied.
  • College Interviews: To supplement my application, I did an interview through InitialView and sent it to Carleton College. Even though most interviews tend to be optional, I believe that they actually reaffirm everything people say in their application.
  • Personal Statements and Carleton Prompts: I revised my personal statement and ended up changing a lot of things in it. The Carleton essay prompts looked simple but a little tricky. This was especially true for the first prompt; I misinterpreted this prompt and ended up rewriting the essay response. I clearly did not give myself enough time to interpret the topic. To properly interpret the essay prompts, I used online resources (Collegeessayguy and Collegevine) and asked the Admissions Office a few questions.
  • Financial Aid Documents: Since I wanted financial assistance, I researched the Carleton website for the documents they needed. I also made sure I found supporting documents to confirm what I put in my financial aid forms.
  • Review: I can’t count the number of times I reviewed and edited my application. I wanted to have no regrets after submitting it.
scoville
Scoville Hall: Home to Carleton’s Admissions and Financial Aid Office

What do you really need to know about the whole college application process?

  • Many different factors are considered before someone is admitted. So take every single part (I repeat, every single part) of your application seriously.
  • Reach out to people. The Admissions Office and the Financial Aid Office are available to answer your questions.
  • Do things early. Don’t wait until a week before the deadline to start gathering documents for your application.
  • Do research. It was through research that I discovered what Carleton expected from me.
  • Learn to write college essays. Writing my first essay draft was the hardest thing I had to do for my college application. Don’t feel stressed out if it seems difficult at the beginning. You will have a great essay if you start writing drafts early. Also, there are lots of good resources that you should check out.
  • Don’t get too many people to review your essays. Getting essay reviews from too many people can make you confused. Know what is too much for you.
  • Optional requirements add value to your application. Take advantage of them.

The college application journey for me was daunting; yet, I managed to succeed, despite being rejected several times. I succeeded because of the support I got from my family, counselor, teachers, mentors, admission officers, websites, and friends. Also, I learned from my mistakes and worked smart. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help you as well. You should definitely check out other posts about why some students chose Carleton. Carleton is here to make your college application journey much easier.


Ben is a freshman from Bamenda, Cameroon, who is eager to experience snow for the first time. Aside from an interest in Computer Science, he is excited to explore Cinema and Media Studies, Economics, Studio Art, Cognitive Science, and Mathematics. At Carleton, he wants to participate in a few clubs and other campus activities, while keeping an academic-social balance. In his free time, Ben enjoys watching anime and random TikTok videos, listening to music, and hanging out with friends. Meet the other bloggers!