Applying to colleges is something most dream about from a young age, or at least that is what I did. We spend years fantasizing about this time, thinking that we’ll finally feel like adults making important decisions. In hindsight, I was wrong. You still feel like a kid playing adult. But what actually happens when this day comes around? I am going to tell you with the help of everything I learned from this experience. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and do better.
One of the first things to do is to find schools. This step was the easiest for me, probably too easy. A good way to start is to decide on locations that work for you. Know how far you are willing to go from home. Next, I would consider majors or programs. If you know what you want to do, search for schools in the areas you are willing to go to that have that major.
If you don’t know what you want to major, find out what matters to you in a school. This is important for anyone. Do you want sports to be big? Do you want a pretty campus? What size? Would you rather attend a smaller school or a huge one? These are questions you need to ask yourself, and they will help narrow down your search.
There are of course, the two main factors you have to consider: affordability and whether or not you think you could get in. Knowing what you or your parents can afford is crucial. Look into the schools you’re interested in and learn about their financial aid and scholarships. When deciding whether or not you could get it, there are a couple things to look at. The main thing is acceptance rate. This will tell you about how many people are accepted each year.
Going to The College Board website can be a great place to start to find the answers to these questions and get know possible schools. Just the main “At a Glance” page for each school instantly tells you the location of each school, the college size, the graduation rate and average financial aid given, and the other tabs provide even more specific information including acceptance rate. Once you have an overview from this site, go the websites of individual schools to get more information about each place you may possibly attend.
To see if you have what it takes, look at their average scores (also available to be viewed on The College Board website). However, it is vital to know that this is far from the deciding factor in admission. You can have scores better than the average and easily get rejected. But don’t let this scare you. Scores lower than the average do not automatically take you out of the running. Aspects such as GPA, good writing and memorable experiences can help supplement your low scores and give you a good shot at admission. Aim for reach schools, but make sure you have safeties in the mix.
Something many students fail to think about is the importance of experience in college admissions. Schools are interested in what you have done to help yourself and your community grow, and this is something that needs to be started as early as possible. Join or start clubs at your school. Volunteer in your community. Look for summer programs and internships. Get a job. In the end, these could give you a leg up on other applicants.
Once you have narrowed down your choices, there are some small things you can do to help your chances. Admission counselors are always listed on the schools’ websites with their emails, and it would be in your best interest to reach out to them. This could help them remember your name when they go through applications.
Schools often take interest into account when admitting students, so keep this in mind. Email counselors with any questions you have about the school. Schedule a visit at the campus to show interest, but also to make sure you could see yourself attending the school and possibly living there. When it gets closer to application deadlines, check to see if the school has interviews available. It depends on the school if this is important, but either way, it could greatly improve your chances at getting into the school. Making an impression on the admission counselors should be your main goal.
As soon as your senior year starts, you should get started with filling out your applications. Most schools will require essays in their applications, so plan accordingly. Ask teachers that you can trust to write recommendation letters that highlight your best qualities. It looks better to the schools if you submit your applications on the early side, so don’t procrastinate.
As to what goes in your application, that is up to you. You have to decide what make you, you. Include aspects of yourself that show who you really are. Having a hook can be really helpful in getting into a college. This is something about you that makes you stand out among the rest of applicants. It could be anything from having a parent attend that school to a weird hobby.
It is important to know the school that you are applying to. Different schools want different types of people. So make sure to adjust your application to something that you think the school will be impressed by, but still be honest about it.
When it comes time to submit, make sure you have done everything the school needs. Have teachers or parents proof read though your essays and fix anything that needs changing. Then, hit submit and take a deep breath. Now it is time to wait. While waiting for you decision, try not to panic. Don’t stress about it too much. It is now out of your control, so all you can do it wait. It will come faster than you think it will.
The decisions are out. Now what? If you got accepted, congrats, you did it. If not, it isn’t the end of the world. Know that it is okay to be heartbroken and take time to be sad about it, but don’t take the decision personally. As long as you applied to some safety schools, you will still be okay. Even if you end up at a school you don’t love, it isn’t the end. Transfering is always an option if it comes to that. No matter what, remember to be proud of all the hard work you put yourself through in high school to get to this place.