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Senior survival guide - college applications

By Piper Salvator in Student News

Seniors struggle everyday with finding the right college. The most worrisome factor to most is whether or not they can really get in to the school of their dreams. While the application process is exciting, it is also extremely overwhelming. Everyone is rushing around getting recommendation letters, writing essays, taking the SAT and ACT, and filling out applications to meet the multiple deadlines of multiple colleges. Relax. Take a deep breath.

The easiest way to tackle the application process is to literally break it down. Start by asking yourself basic questions. What are my interests and career goals? What are my strengths and weaknesses? Once you have these factors identified, the next step is research. Thousands of books exist with information on thousands of colleges and universities; programs like Naviance and College Board are extremely helpful online resources. While researching different schools remind yourself to be open-minded. You may think you have found the perfect fit, but keep researching because there are thousands of schools out there, and your first choice might not necessarily be the best school for you. Next, make sure you are being realistic. It is crucial to apply to several reach schools, but make sure you are still looking at schools that have numbers that match up to yours.

Staying organized is perhaps the most important aspect to the college application process, so once you have identified potential college options start a binder or notebook and make a list of all of those schools. That way you can go back and write specific details about those schools and cross out ones you are no longer interested in. After you have created your list, ask yourself if the colleges on your list offer courses in your desired majors or areas of interest. Look at professor ratings, department websites, and specific programs, like honors colleges, within the school. Your list should contain five to ten schools with a couple reach schools.

Next, examining the cost of a college is important. Look at all the factors like in state versus out-of-state tuition, room and board costs, financial aid and scholarships. College board has a list of hundreds of scholarships to apply for. Talk to your parents about how much they can contribute, realistically, to your education. While cost is a crucial element to any education, do not be turned off from a college because of its price. Still apply to all the schools you want because you never know what financial aid and scholarships you will be offered, but make sure you have perhaps a state school you can afford on your list as a back up plan.

After that, look at the location and size of the colleges you are interested in. The three main locations are rural, suburban, and urban. Think about costs of travel in getting to and from home and climate. All of these factors are in almost any college book you look at. Size is a very important factor in choosing the right college. Some colleges have up to 70,000 students! With large schools often comes a lot of school spirit and a huge interest in athletics. If you are one who loves cheering in big crowds, wearing your school colors at a football game, a larger school may be right for you. If you are one who likes a smaller, more personal environment where you can get to know your professors, think more about a smaller school.

After you have considered all of these options in picking your school, and hopefully narrowed down your list, you can actually begin your applications. Make sure you stay ahead in this part of the process. Know, and write down, early action and regular decision deadlines for all your schools. While early action allows you to get your decision faster, schools are still looking for the same candidates in both early and regular decision pools. Don’t worry if you don’t have it together by the early action deadline. However, if you are applying to state schools that cater mostly to the students of that state it is to your advantage to get your application in as early as possible. After you have decided when to apply look at how many of your schools you can apply to through the common app. Keep in mind that although you can use the common app many of those schools still require supplements you must submit. Most applications include basic family and demographic information as well as essays.

Essays could possibly determine your acceptance at a college if your numbers are just like everyone else’s who applied. Make sure your essay shows your personality. Write how you write and be yourself, do not simply write what you think an admissions officer might want to read. Create an attention-grabbing hook so that whoever is reading your essay is immediately interested. Think about whom you want to write your recommendation letters. It is the standard for colleges to require two letters from teachers who taught you academic subjects. These teachers should know you well. They should know about your performance in their class as well as your character. It does not hurt to send more recommendation letters than required from a possible coach or church leader. Once you have finished your applications, essays, and have gotten your teacher recommendation letters you should feel a lot of relief.

While the college application process could be one the most stressful experiences you have ever dealt with it is important to remember that no matter what happens, everything will work out. It is not the end of the world if you don’t get into your absolute dream school because with all your hard research you found many other schools that you could see yourself happy at. The Fairview counseling and post grad centers would say that the “biggest hurdle in helping relief stress is to get beyond the names of colleges.” Find somewhere you can truly be happy at, and do your best on your application, and be satisfied wit that. Good luck to all seniors during this process!

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