9 Tips On College Apps From Someone Who Survived
A users guide to embarking on the college application process while staying sane.
Here’s the bad news: as someone who just went through the college application process, I can tell you it’s no walk in the park. It’s scary. Lonely. Down right horrible. The process can’t be sugarcoated or avoided. It’s coming.
Here’s the good news: I survived, and you will, too. I’m the oldest, so my family hadn’t been through the college application process. But they learned along with me (fun family bonding!...) and somehow we managed. And having lived through the experience, although it was a struggle, I feel it is my duty to extend a helping hand to the eldest children of the word. I’ve got your back.
So, here are my best tips:
1. Start early. I know, I know, this is the last thing teenagers want to hear, myself included. We don’t like doing anything, especially not earlier than we need to. But trust me, the benefits will shine through in the end when your best friend is currently having the third mental breakdown of the night and you’re sleeping like a baby. The Common Application comes out towards the end of the summer (wink, wink). This is where a majority of your college applications will come from, and just a hint, many colleges require more than one essay.
2. Narrow down your college search. I started off my list with 27 schools. Twenty-seven. I didn’t even know I knew that many colleges...and when I finally came to my senses (or saw the amount of essays I would be required to write) I focused my search. Before jumping the gun with the applications and writing, make sure you know the basics of what you’re looking for. A small school? Big 10? Specific major? These are all key factors in deciding where you will ultimately spend the next four years of your life. How will you know? Well, you won’t necessarily. Personally, I applied to a few of each. Key word: few. If I decide to go to a big school, which big schools would I actually want to attend? Narrow your choices down. Not too much, but enough that it’s not painful to look at a keyboard.
3. Get your essays revised. Starting early will give you a chance to do this. Some people believe their writing is top notch. And it might be. Or not. Don’t hesitate to ask a teacher, parent or even a friend to look over your essays and provide feedback. There are resources all around you. Many schools have specific resource centers focused on reviewing and editing writing (this is not a coincidence, and will only help you in the long run.)
4. Get familiar with the size of envelopes. A large envelope is commonly good news. A small envelope...well, you get the picture.
5. Get into your dream school? Congrats! You’re not done. Back to step one: start early. But in a different sense. An all too familiar theme among seniors this year was slacking as the envelopes arrived. We thought we deserved it. That everything was over. And while we did deserve it, everything was not over. Now comes the scholarship search and financial aid applications. Didn’t think you’d have to see the word “applications” again, did you? Don’t wait on these. They come and go quickly, and the last thing you want to do is wave goodbye to your dream school due to lack of funds.
6. Keep going. Really. You can never be awarded “too” much money.
7. Go shopping. Oh, you like the way that sounds? Hey, it’s not all painful. You don’t want to be that one kid on campus lacking school spirit, especially if you’re attending a Big Ten school. If this is the case, and you are that one kid, you might as well pack your bags back up.
8. Tackle housing and the online dating (aka, roommate situation). But really, it’s online dating. It’s broken down to a science. Usually the first step is Facebook-stalking the subject, and then deciding whether or not to make the move. Then, after talking for a while (a month or so), odds are someone is going to pop the question. And yes, butterflies in your stomach will be involved. If you’re lucky enough to find a quick match, don’t hesitate to begin the housing documents asap. Getting a prime location on campus is nothing to joke around with—it’s a competition, so get with it.
9. Enjoy! You’re going to college! Make sure to live this summer to the fullest, because it’s the last chapter before embarking on your college experience. Take advantage of the things only accessable at home (eating unlimited amounts of frozen yogurt in your living room without judgment...) and spend as much time as possible with your family and friends. Also, laugh at the juniors about to begin the college application process. If they’re lucky, maybe you’ll make them their own checklist.