by Aubrey Lusignan, Staff Writer
Applying to college can be an extremely stressful process. On top of juggling AP courses, sports, extracurricular activities, and some form of a social life, applying to college is just one more task on what seems to be a never ending to do list. But, the college application process is extremely important because you’ll likely go through it once. Although, as a junior in college, I’m starting to think about applying to graduate school, so I am in a similar position that I was in 3 years ago. It would have been helpful if someone had given me some extra guidance when I was a hopeful and nervous high school student. Here are my five suggestions as you navigate the college application process.
1. Don’t Limit Yourself
One thing I regret about my college application process is that I didn’t apply to as many colleges as I could have. I found myself applying to schools that I had no interest in just for the sake of having a ‘safety’ school. It’s extremely important to give yourself options, apply to a couple ‘reach schools,’ as well as schools you think you have a good shot of getting into. Now is the time to take chances and a gamble on your future; if you don’t seize an opportunity, you’ll never know the outcome. Some of my best experiences in college so far have been a result of putting myself out there and applying to internships, clubs, and classes that seemed a little out of my league. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Know you’re limits, but push your boundaries. After you finish the Common App, be more excited than nervous and feel confidant in your college choices.
2. But Don’t Go Overboard
There’s nothing like hearing the class valedictorian or the boy who sits diagonal from you in Spanish AP announce, “I’ve applied to 16 different colleges, and I’m considering applying to more.” I assure you there is no award, certification, or extra credit points for spending thousands of dollars on college application fees. I also assure you that adding that one extra application to some college in the Midwest that has nice school colors or a cool library will not affect your future. I recommend applying to six to ten schools that you’re really interested in, that have majors and minors that you could see yourself pursuing, and that have a student body and campus that you could see yourself feeling comfortable with and connected to. Don’t apply to your state school if you have no interest in it and don’t apply to a school for the name or prestige when you see yourself being miserable there. College is a time to explore your passions, make connections, and attain an education that will imprint your life beyond the classroom and hopefully shape you into a decent human being. Apply to universities that share the same vision of your future that you do, that being said. one size does not fit all.
3. Go On College Tours
Perhaps you’ve loved the idea of one college or university ever since you could remember. You have five different sweatshirts proudly displaying the college’s name, maybe you’ve watched their football team with your dad, and gushed over the college’s prestige. But, you’ve never set foot on the university’s campus and in your head that doesn’t seem like a big deal. I urge you to visit as many of the colleges that you apply to. Check out the dorms, the dining halls, and the playing fields. Look at the gym, the classrooms, and the modes of transportation within and around the campus. Visiting a college’s campus can make a huge difference in the application process. Maybe the school that has that obscure major that you’re interested in has jail cell-like dorm rooms, cut throat students, and lecture halls that make you want to fall asleep in rather than being inspired. You can learn a lot about a school from a tour and your tour guide. I also recommend visiting a college when the student body is present. You can observe actual college students in action and get a better feel for the university. It will help you imagine if you could see yourself in a current student’s shoes or if you should cross the university off your application list.
4. Ask Questions
Attending college tours can be awkward. You have to get in a car, on a train, or plane with your embarrassing parents to explore an unfamiliar place that you may spend the next four years of your life at. Arriving at a university can be overwhelming—you have to quickly locate the school’s information center and then get in a group of other nervous students (who, to mention, are your competition for the university’s admittance spots) and zig zag across the campus trying to listen to everything the tour guide shouts to the whole group. As much as parents can be annoying or embarrassing, they do one think right at college tours that students tend to avoid—they ask questions. I can understand that a tour guide can be intimidating or the idea of an exchange with strangers is something you haven’t had too much practice with, but don’t be afraid to speak up and find out what a school is all about. Ask the guide or maybe another student, advisor, or professor what their favorite parts of the university are. Ask what are some of the college’s traditions? What is the university’s motto? What’s student life like on the weekend? Most importantly, ask yourself, “Will I be comfortable at this school and can I see myself thriving here?” In college you have to advocate for yourself in unfamiliar settings, without the help of your parents, so start to practice using your voice. There is no dumb question in the college application process.
5. Take Care of Yourself
While applying to college can be overwhelming and time consuming, it’s so important that you take care of yourself throughout the whole process. Get rest, exercise, and sunlight. Treat yourself the way you’d want your best friend to treat him or herself. You may feel compelled to pull an all-nighter studying for AP Chemistry and crafting the perfect college essay, but it’s not worth it. It’s proven that two hours of concentrated work with breaks in between is most effective for your brain and memory. You have to rest your mind to retain all that super awesome knowledge you strive so hard to learn. College is around the corner— keep your mind and body in one piece and best of luck on your college applications!