A Student’s Guide to the College Process
As a senior looking back on my now completed college admissions process, there are many things that I wish I had done differently, and many things I that made my college process easier. In this article, I’m going to explain my not-so easy journey through the fast-paced process of applying to colleges, and how I got through it. The main message I want you to take from this: start early and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
As a rising junior not prepared for the academic hardships that were yet to come, I had a very optimistic view about applying to college. My mindset was to apply to as many schools as I possibly could, and then have many options to choose from. But first came the dreaded ACT and SAT tests. Looking back, I would highly recommend starting as early as possible. Having planned to take the ACT in February, and the SAT in March, I wanted to start studying as early as a possibly could, so I could slowly pace myself. By scheduling my tests earlier in the year, I knew I would have time to retake them if I was unhappy with my scores. By starting preparation in the early fall, I was able to take my time and absorb information over time. All you need are the Princeton ACT and SAT books, and you are set! If tutoring and counseling are available to you, take advantage of that!
In terms of finding the right school for you: research, research, research! Find a school to that fits your major, living interests, and finances and deliberate if you see yourself at that school. Also, do not be afraid to reach out. As a 16/17-year-old teenager, I was steadfast in my independence and wanted to do everything myself. Asking for help from my friends, family, and the college counselor resources at my school made the process exponentially easier. Once you make your list of schools you want to apply to, tour them if that option is available to you. If not, get in touch with your region’s admissions counselor or the head of the program at the school to ask for more information. For me, I wanted four main things out of my university: an urban environment, a program involving my major that went above and beyond typical programs, service opportunities, and my ability to afford the school. The final aspect of my college search was extremely important to me; if I was in love with a school that was out of my price range, I searched for as many scholarship opportunities as possible.
After I made my list, I waited for the application process to begin. The tests passed, and the summer passed, and before realizing it, I was a senior starting the college admission process. Like with the SAT and ACT, I recommend starting the applications and the writing supplements as early as possible. As I said, my mindset was to apply to as many schools as possible, hoping to get into as many as possible, and have plentiful options. Unless you are extremely passionate and absolutely love over 10 different schools, I do NOT recommend applying to over 10. I applied to 13 schools and it was a strenuous process of writing over 30 supplemental essays, and multiple other scholarship essays.
For writing essays, write in the way you would speak. College admission counselors are not looking for MLA format and perfect sentence structure - they want to hear and understand your voice and your experiences as a person and a potential student. When writing about why you want to attend a certain college, describe your passion for a unique aspect that the university houses that is not comparable to other universities. As with the search for colleges, do not be afraid to ask for help. Utilize your family and friends as your editors for outside feedback and talk with any outside college counselor resource if that is available to you. I highly recommend applying to Early Action, which is non-binding, if that option is available for a university that you are applying to. It’s so wonderful to know your decision in December, to have more time to deliberate your decision. Also, if you are in the midst of writing for a school that you don’t “love” and the process is becoming too strenuous, don’t be afraid to drop that school off your list!
Finally, for the “getting-in” part. The hard part. I had so much anxiety around deciding my future and didn’t have any idea of where I wanted to go, and I was so disheartened when I didn’t get in to certain schools. Although getting over rejection from some schools took longer than others, I knew that wherever I attended, it would be the right place for me. When deciding, again, ask for help! This is your decision, but outside input always helps. Reach out to students you may know attending the school and ask specific questions. Touring after your admission is extremely helpful as well.
Although the process is strenuous, anxiety-inducing and disheartening at times, it can be made easier by starting as early as you can, asking for help from any resources available, and research. I definitely learned a lot about pacing myself and time management through this process. Looking back, I do not believe what happened was real - I put so much time and effort into everything, and now I am finally on my trek to college.
Through months of deliberation and stress about deciding between different schools, I am happy to say that I am going to be attending the University of Texas at Austin, with a major in Plan II! I hope that my story and advice will help future applicants - good luck!
Want more buzz like this? Sign up for our Morning Buzz emails.
To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Or you may post as a guest.