While the College Admissions Experience is Unique For Each Student, Many Go Through Similar Emotions
It’s an experience high school seniors across the country are going through together – applying to college. Every student is different, but the emotions and questions that the college application process can provoke are pretty predictable.
As a student, it’s hard not to find frustration in the process. It’s a lot of work, there are a lot of uncertainties, and dropping admission rates doesn’t help to alleviate much of the stress. But don’t fret. We’re all in this together. Here are some questions you're bound to ask yourself as you apply to college this fall – and the answers you're looking for.
Why does everyone have an opinion? (And why can't I avoid them?)
Really. Everyone. Your neighbors, extended family members, even your cat has weighed in – it seems everyone you know has some insight as to where you should go to college, what you should study, and what you should write about in your essays. It’s hard not to listen to everyone’s two cents, after all, you know they mean well, but it can get annoying. Don’t let too many voices crowd your thoughts or influence your decisions. Make your own decisions, and weigh them with feedback from your parents and college counselor.
To apply early or not to apply early?
Is the whole senior class applying to college early decision or early action? As early deadlines loom it may feel like everyone is getting ready to submit an early application. Should you do it, too?! It’s hard not feel like you should have an “impressive” response if someone asks if you’re applying anywhere early. “Well of course! I submitted my early action app to Yale yesterday!” But remember, just because admit rates in the early round tend to be higher than those of the regular round doesn’t automatically mean you have a better shot of getting in. If your application isn’t ready, or you need some time to improve upon a grade, you can actually keep yourself from getting in if you apply early. Don’t cave to the pressure – only apply early if you’re REALLY ready!
Will I ever finish all these college application essays?
You have to write how many essays?! It’s daunting to think about, but a college list with 10 schools could leave you with upward of 20 essays to write. That’s a lot of life experience to draw meaning out of. Even if you’re applying to a college with some of those short, quirky supplement prompts, you still need to take time to think about your answers. At this point, if you had a dollar for every word count you’ve gone over you wouldn’t need to go to college in the first place. Don’t let the essay-writing portion of the college application process overwhelm you. Instead, have fun with it. Write about what you’re passionate about. Reveal something new about yourself. Create a timeline that spreads out your writing over time so you’re not scrambling to finish all your essays at the last minute. It’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be tedious.
My college list is perfect – or is it?
It happens to every applicant. Your perfectly crafted and balanced college list is suddenly incomplete. Should you have taken State U off as a target? Do you need to add another reach just to see if you can get in? Is your likely list too short? What if you don’t get into any of my target colleges?! What was once a carefully constructed list of colleges is now a page of question marks. Don’t panic. It’s normal to feel like your list is not enough – or even too much. If you’re having second thoughts, talk it through with your parents and college counselor. Maybe it is worth it to add one more likely school you took off previously, or maybe it’s wise to leave your list as it is. Get feedback before tearing your list apart – sometimes it helps just to talk about it.
What do you mean application deadlines are just a few weeks away?!
Where did the semester go?! It seems the calendar went straight from August to December and you’re not even close to finishing all your college applications. This is the perfect time to panic, right? Keep your cool. It’s not uncommon for students to slack off on their college applications mid-way through the semester, especially if they’re waiting on early decisions. If you applied early, keep up the momentum to finish your regular decision applications. If you’re only half way through your college essays, make an application timeline and set aside time each week to work on your writing. Aim to finish your applications ahead of deadlines in order to have plenty of time to edit and troubleshoot should there be difficulties submitting your applications.
In the end everything will work out, right?
Applying to college is stressful! After all, your future is at stake, right?! Not quite. While this is a big decision and milestone for students, it’s not life or death. If you do proper research, build a balanced list of best-fit colleges, and take time to put together meaningful, thoughtful applications that accurately convey who you are as a person and student, you’ll get into a great college. Remember, college is what you make it. It’s not where you go but what you do with your experience and opportunities available to you that will define your success. This is an exciting time! Don’t let college application anxiety take away from your senior year experience. In the end, everything will come together and the stress of the admissions process will be a distant memory.