A lifeline for college applicants – Orange County Register

For her college admission essay, Renee Crippen decided to write about … juice boxes.

Yes, those indispensable childhood refreshments.

Crippen, who attended Marina High School in Huntington Beach, wrote about an item she wished could be “uninvented.”

She argued that juice boxes, although made of recyclable materials, are densely packed, and most end up in landfills. Surely, Crippen thought, there could be a more earth-friendly container?

Juice boxes may not seem like a likely essay topic when applying to colleges.

But that was Crippen’s point.

“I was nervous because I didn’t have a dramatic story to write about for my essay to win a school over,” Crippen says. “So I decided to focus on a unique facet of my personality. I believe it was more about how I presented myself in the essay than simply listing all the things I did during high school.”

Crippen, 19, is a sophomore at UCLA majoring in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics.

And her essay tip is just one of many she has for high school students facing the daunting task of applying to colleges.

In addition to being a busy college student, Crippen has a part-time job mentoring people who, just a couple of years ago, were just like her: stressed-out high school students trying to navigate the admission process.

Crippen and another O.C.-bred student, Hannah Ling, 20, a junior at UC Berkeley studying mechanical engineering, work part time for CollegeVine (collegevine.com), a fast-growing company based in Cambridge, Mass.

Founded in 2013, CollegeVine employs “near-peer mentors” from around the country who work one-on-one with students ranging from first-semester college freshmen to second-semester high school juniors who need help applying to college.

The concept: have people who’ve recently gone through the process guide those who are just embarking on it, at a cost (a maximum of $3,500) that is more affordable than independent college counselors, says Vinay Bhaskara, co-founder and head of operations at CollegeVine.

“Our near-peer mentors have just experienced the stress, uncertainty and challenges that their clients are going through,” Bhaskara said. “CollegeVine is powered by both our consultants and our data.”

In Crippen’s case, she was “too nervous” to let her high school counselor help her narrow down her school choices or read her personal statements.

She ended up applying to an eye-popping 23 schools before she was selected for a Regent’s…

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