It's time to put things into perspective… it has been 4 years since I went through the college application process and that seems unreal. While I am glad that it all worked out how I really wanted it to, I wouldn't be dying to go back through and work on those applications again. On the flip side though, I would love to have a bit more time left to truly enjoy college life and all that comes along with it and that's where I become jealous of all of you currently entering your senior year of high school and beginning your college application process.
To make this process a bit easier I thought it would be helpful for me to share some of the tips I was told and took to heart when I was in your shoes 4 years ago. I am sure there have been some changes since then so hopefully I am not your final source of information when it comes to this subject matter but I figured my tips and advice could help y'all in some way.
Before I get into the tips I want to start by sharing a few thoughts a friend and I were recently discussing. Nell and I were talking about how caught up people (ourselves included) can get when it comes to their next stage of life. It's the whole idea that the grass is always greener on the other side and in high school it can be hard not to think about college as this spectacular experience that will be everything you've always imagined it to be. I'm generalizing here but I want to remind y'all that in all honesty there is probably more than one college that would be able to provide you with an amazing education and experience simultaneously. I don't however, want to sugarcoat things and do want to remind you that with everything there are ups and downs. If your college is experience is identical to what is in your imagination and absolutely perfect then let me know how you're doing that because we could all take a little advice from you. My own experience has had its ups and downs and while I wouldn't necessarily go back and change those downs I am confident that those peaks and plateaus would be present regardless of where I went. I know Furman has been the right choice for me but a lot of that has been the opportunities and experiences I've set myself up for on my campus. The biggest piece of comfort I can provide you in this process would be that what you choose to do in college is more important than where you choose to go. So even if you end up at a school that may have been in the middle of your list a positive perspective when it comes to the things you'll be able to do on your campus will make a world of difference in your overall experience.
So now that I've shared a bit of perspective with you now we can focus on my tips!
Since you may be scratching your head after reading some of these hopefully my explanations can help to break this down a bit better…
1. Get the common app done before you go back to school.
This was without a doubt some of the best advice I was given when it came to the college application process. I know you don't want to spend the end of your summer working on this but I can guarantee you that you will feel a lot less stressed when you for the most part have the common app done before the stress of school kicks in. Have your essays written out (including supplements for the schools you are considering applying to that require that) and all of that other information in the systems. You'll already start to feel productive and on top of things and that confidence is a welcome change when it comes to the unknowns and waiting game that applying to colleges can sometimes be.
2. Don't linger when it comes to finally submitting your application.
While I am in no way rushing you to get it done and send it in I would encourage you to do your research. Check to find out if the schools you are applying to accept on a rolling basis and if that is the case you won't want to linger when it comes to submitting those perfectly curated and corrected essays since the sooner you submit the more spots there will be that you could potentially fill!
3. Don't write about what you think the school wants to hear.
Hear me out on this one! A lot of people feel obligated to write about some moment where their life was changed forever or maybe even share an experience that may seem cliche when it comes to writing their college essays. What can really set you apart is writing about something that makes you unique or will leave a lasting impression on those people reviewing your application. Whatever you write about needs to be something you are passionate about since your voice and enthusiasm will stand out more and you'll appear to be a more persuasive candidate to these schools. Whatever you do just really think through the prompt and how it applies to your life and attempt to connect it though stories that you are excited to tell.
4. Triple check the word count or character limit on essays before you begin writing.
A little bit self explanatory but I am going to go ahead and try to save you the heartbreak of finishing an essay that is exactly 1000 words and your best work yet only for you to discover the max is 1000 characters. Write this information down especially if you plan to jump from essay to essay!
5. Find someone to proofread your essays consistently.
The college application process involves a lot of drafts and while you may think that you are a pro proofreader it will be harder to catch your own mistakes when you already know what is trying to be said. Do yourself a favor and find someone who can consistently proofread your essays to make sure they are top notch. With that in mind I would also recommend that the person/people you choose have no problem being honest with you about the structure, organization, flow, and everything else that makes an essay complete i.e. don't choose mom and dad (unless they can guarantee to leave their bias at the door).
6. Apply to schools you can actually see yourself attending.
This will require you to do some research about each school and hopefully will involve you visiting a variety of schools. The more schools you visit the better idea you'll be able to get of what you like and dislike when it comes to college campuses. If you can't see yourself actually attending a school or are applying somewhere just to try to get in you could end up taking the spot of someone who has that school as their #1 choice and would probably be spending an unnecessary amount of time working on an application for it to be worthwhile anyway.
7. Have a backup or safety school where you could see yourself being happy.
So as you get more into the college application process you'll start to hear things like "reach school" and "safety school." A reach school is a school you want to attend but aren't sure you have the credentials to do so. A safety school is still a school you'd be happy to attend but have no doubt you'll get into. With ll things it is nice to have a backup plan and by applying to a safety plan you can eliminate some of the overall stress of the application process.
8. Ask people to write your letters of recommendation sooner rather than later.
Letters of recommendation are a great thing to have however it takes a bit of time to get them completed. Ask your teacher(s) to write them sooner rather than later since it is likely that other students will be going to them asking them the same favor. The sooner they get started on your the less likely it will be that yours is super generic and a generalization of your accomplishments and tendencies in the classroom. Also, ask a teacher who has seen your improvement over time if at all possible that way they can show the colleges you're applying to your growth.
9. Send your resumes to a school even if they don't ask for it.
Resumes are important all throughout your adult life and for professionalism so hopefully you already have one that is ready to be sent (If not I have a post explaining how to make one here)! Because it highlights all of your accomplishments and skills it is a great thing to share with colleges you're applying to even if they don't specifically ask for it.
10. Keep track of deadlines.
Put all of the important deadline dates on your calendar at one time so that you can be sure that you haven't forgotten any. Keeping track of your deadlines will reduce your stress and help to make sure you're timely in your submissions!
I created this post in video form as well where I go into more depth about the importance and my experience with these various tips and would love for y'all to watch it, especially if you're a senior in high school preparing to apply to schools!
Definitely help me to keep this up to date by leaving any additional tips or advice you may have to assist others in the comments! Oh, and one last little nugget of wisdom… if you know what you'd like to major in make sure you're looking at schools that offer that major or something similar!