The College Search: Sage(hen) Advice from Sonam

graphic for Sage(hen) adviceThis is the second in a six-part series of advice for high-school-aged students about the college search process. Enjoy!

By Sonam Rikha ‘24

I know that the “C” word can be scary. I remember the immense amount of stress I would experience upon hearing the word “College” when I was in high school. Being the first in my family to go to college and navigate the college application process always made me feel like I was one step behind some of my peers. As a survivor of high school and the college admissions process, I hope a few of these tips will help you traverse through the rest of your high school and college search journey 🙂 Here are some of my top tips, starting with those for sophomores, then going on to those for juniors:

  • As a sophomore, start looking into colleges! Evaluate how you feel about your high school and consider what things you value in a college. Do you like learning in a small or big environment? Does location or weather matter?
  • hands showing, with lab coat on person, doing something in chem labFind what you’re passionate about and pursue it. If you’re passionate about biology, try finding a local student internship or research program at a lab. If you’re passionate about community organizing, find ways you can get involved in community-based organizations. Colleges love to learn about your passions and how you pursue them throughout high school.
  • Figure out what you’re going to do in the summer. Do you want to work? Attend a summer program? Many colleges have summer programs that allow you to pursue your academic and non-academic interests.
  • Talk to your parents about financial aid and how you plan to pay for college. It’s never too early to talk about financial aid! Research which colleges meet 100% demonstrated financial need (like Pomona College) and look into scholarships. If you’re interested, learn more about my experience with the POSSE scholarship application process.


  • For juniors from underrepresented communities, start looking into diversity fly-in programs as well as mentorship programs that can help guide you through the college application process. You can read about my experience at Pomona’s diversity fly in program (POP).
  • professor explaining something to student on laptopStart developing relationships with your teachers and counselor. Whether it be participating more in class or visiting your counselor’s office hours, try to stay in contact with them consistently. This will come in handy when asking for letters of recommendation!
  • Continue to talk with your parents about financial aid and how you plan to pay for college. Research which colleges meet 100% financial need (like Pomona College) and look into scholarships.
  • Attend as many college info sessions or fairs as possible to learn more about what schools fit your needs and values. Then start making a spreadsheet of all the schools you’re interested in and their application material due dates.

If you’d like to learn more about me, you can check out the VOICES Blog page! Also feel free to reach out to Pomona Admissions if you would like any more tips or information.