Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Applied to College
Completing college applications is an extremely stressful task and causes anxiety in many students, teachers, Internet service providers, the whole lot. Everyone knows that they are obviously a test of endurance, stamina and intelligence, and should therefore be respected from a distance, and feared up close. (You thought high school was hard, LOL). The aim of this article is to hopefully make you a little more confident about your college applications or just a little less stressed out (Success not guaranteed). I am going to relive my application process, and if we both make it out alive, maybe you’ll learn something.
Narrow your Choices
Narrowing your list of prospective colleges can be difficult but it’s not impossible. Remember that the rankings of colleges are often based on their grad schools. Consider this while applying and when deciding on a college later on. Many small liberal arts schools are not featured in these rankings but they are by no means less brilliant than the huge, highly ranked research universities (don’t be too quick to brush them aside, most are pretty great). College prowler will be your best friend throughout this process.
Finish Tests Early
Get your standardized testing out of the way as soon as possible because it’s just a pain if you try to juggle your applications, standardized tests and schoolwork all at once. Avoid doing the November/December, unless it’s really necessary, because it’s usually around the same time as the midterms in 11th, AND in 12th you’re writing college essays and midterms. I did that and my scores didn’t really improve so: waste of money, waste of time. But you’re not me so do whatever, YOLO.
The dreaded SAT: It’s a huge pain and it’s not exactly cheap, around $100 to write a test for over 3 hours; $51 for the test, $40 for being Asian and some random taxes of course because life is incomplete without them. GET IT OUT OF THE WAY.
Make sure you check if the colleges on your list have any specific testing requirements (SAT, TOEFL, IELTS, SAT II) and see if you can have them waived. There’s nothing more annoying than having to spend a ton of money on random tests that you could’ve avoided. Some of the smaller liberal arts colleges don’t even require the SAT anymore (YAY liberal arts!).
Organize your Thoughts
Writing essays is a time consuming process so start early. Make sure you stick to your deadlines because it’s going to affect YOU in the end, no one else. If you’re sending your essays to a college counsellor don’t be late and expect them to work miracles because they’re people too and believe it or not, they need to sleep at night as well. Ask your teachers and peers to read your essays and give you feedback. That being said, don’t feel the need to take every single person’s opinion into account. It’s very easy to lose your thought process and your voice in an essay when you take everyone’s feedback into consideration. You are trying to convince colleges to choose you for YOU so be true to yourself as much as possible. College admissions committees are not as mean as you think they are. They are more afraid of you than you are of them (once they admit you, you have an insane amount of leverage.) Find out if colleges are need-blind or not. A common belief is that you are less likely to be accepted if you apply for financial aid but this is not always true. If you know people in some of the colleges you want to apply to, talk to them and get a sense of the academic intensity and the expectations that professors might have. This is also helpful when you are choosing where you want to go after the decisions have come out.
Fast forward. Applications are sent, a huge burden taken off your shoulders. Take a breather because you deserve it for making it this far. Now start stressing about whether colleges actually love you. It’s normal to be stressed while waiting for your decisions but remember, there’s nothing you can change about your applications now. So just have fun while you can. Getting accepted is always fun, getting rejected or deferred, not so much (Feels something like this http://bit.ly/1cuAt4L).
Finally you have to pick where you want to go: the perfect place for an amazing experience and a new adventure. Think carefully even if you think you already know where you want to go because the entire application process might change things for you. Trust me on this one. I had to choose between UBC and Grinnell. Before I applied, I had my heart set on UBC and it was a no-brainer when anyone asked me where I was going.
When it finally came down to it, however, UBC wasn’t the one for me, even though it was my first love. At the time, I thought I was making a huge mistake by choosing Grinnell but now I can easily say it was the best decision I have ever made (Grinnell is amazing. You should apply! http://www.grinnell.edu). Colleges are like clothes. Imagine that you find a really nice pair of jeans and they look great but they don’t fit you. You squeeze into them anyway but they look terrible on you. Don’t choose a college that doesn’t fit you.
Lastly, while choosing the college you want to commit to, have a set of criteria to compare them and make a rational decision. I can’t give you a list of criteria because it depends on what is important to you. One thing I’ll tell you, however, is that WEATHER IS IMPORTANT. It shouldn’t be a determining factor (unless you are very picky about the weather) but I think it’s pretty important. I go to college in Iowa where winters are -20°C on average. Not fun. I’m sure I would’ve transferred by now if I didn’t love my college as much as I do.
I know this was long but we both made it through. I hope it helped. These are things that I learned late into my application process so maybe it will help you get a jump on your work. Hang in there! College is such a blast, so I hope you find your perfect fit.