Even with SAT exams, late night studying and years of sweat and tears that high school students endure, there might be an uncontrollable factor that helps with college admission: having an older sibling who went through the college process.
Without realizing it, younger siblings may be receiving a preview to their college years.
Older siblings are unknowingly preparing them for the application process, the challenges college brings and the overall experience.
In a survey of 134 students at Maria Carrillo High School, 70 percent of students agreed that having an older sibling helps prepare for the college experience and application process. About 87 percent of students who have an older sibling in college or one who graduated from college agreed with the statement.
Maria Carrillo sophomore Tommy Levini toured colleges, sat in on admission meetings and endured countless hours of college-centered conversations, all during his older sister's college-preparation process.
His sister, Maria Carrillo alumna Hanna Levini, who began her first year at Long Beach State University in August, is the reason he was exposed to college so early.
Levini said he specifically learned from his sister to take advantage of the early admissions period. He has also decided he wants to attend a large school, like his sister, to meet more people and get the big campus feel.
"I love my sister and her college experience is inspiring," Levini said.
Not only does this give him background information on the college he wants to attend and how to apply, but he has spoken with his sister every week on the phone since she began school, giving him an invaluable window into college life.
Junior Baelei Wiesner says that even though she didn't tour colleges with her sister, she has a better understanding of what it takes to be accepted.
Wiesner said that having an older sibling (alumna Ali Wiesner) who was accepted to UC Davis is a motivation for herself.
"The application process will be easier since I have an idea of what it is like," she said.
Parents are also more prepared when their younger children are ready to apply for college. They know what to expect emotionally and financially.
Senior Trysha Hicks said her parents weren't very involved in the application process of her older sibling, Tacey Hicks, and let Tacey do everything on her own, simply because they didn't know what to do.
Hicks began touring colleges during her freshman year, which she says opened her mind early.
"Even if you are not in the mindset yet, listen," she said.
Now a senior, she realizes how much simpler having an older sibling has made her application process.
"She was a big procrastinator," said Hicks, who hopes to avoid this habit. "(Most importantly) I now know what I'm looking for," she added.
(Mia von Knorring, 15, is a sophomore at Maria Carrillo High School. Adapted from the Puma Prensa student newspaper.)