Applying for colleges is one of the most stressful things about senior year. If you’re anything like me, it will make you want to throw your computer against a wall at times. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been looking at colleges or thinking about what career you want to pursue: the process will stress you out, and you will, at some point, question what you are doing with your entire life. Luckily, there’s nothing wrong with that. The college and major you choose will have a huge impact on your adult life, so rethinking some of the things that you thought you were sure about isn’t bad. It’s simply ensuring that you’re going to be happy with the choices you make.
As someone who is currently going through the application process myself, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. To help you stay calm and get into the colleges you want, here are five important tips for applying to colleges:
- Be sincere in your essays. You’ll find that a lot of the applications will have similar essay questions. Just because they are similar doesn’t mean you should Ctrl-C & Ctrl-V. Be authentic and take your time—they want to know you and why you are choosing their college specifically, so don’t write a piece that can literally be used for any college.
- Visit as many of your colleges as possible. A common essay question pertains to why you want to attend that specific school. Trust me when I say it is really, really hard to answer that if you don’t really know much about the school. The websites provide information, but seeing the college and witnessing the atmosphere is completely different. Not only will this help you find things that stand out about a college in comparison to others, but hopefully you will find things that left a personal impression on you as well! Most importantly, visiting a college can help you make sure that you actually want to go there. And if you don’t like it as much as you thought you would, don’t feel as though you still have to apply. Don’t apply to go anywhere you wouldn’t be happy and comfortable.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Teachers, parents, and older siblings are all there to help you! Ask for help with filling out applications. If you are going into an art-related major, for example, ask a teacher who’s more familiar with your discipline to look over the work you're considering submitting for a portfolio. It can be nerve-wracking to show someone your work, but if you are planning on going to college for it, then your work is going to be seen sooner or later anyway (not to mention analyzed to death during critique sessions). Getting a second, third, or even fourth opinion can go a long way!
- Don’t procrastinate or be discouraged. There is a lot of pressure during these beginning months of senior year, and filling out applications while managing school, internships, work, sports, and everything else can really tire you out. Taking breaks isn’t a bad idea. However, make sure that you don’t stop and put everything on hold until the last minute. Not only will this only cause more stress, but by pushing everything to the last minute, you are at risk of forgetting deadlines, misplacing important files, and having too much to do at one time. You can do this! This is something that everyone goes through. Trust me—once you finally get all of your applications in, you will be so relieved.
- Calm down. This is perhaps the most important thing on this list. I know how easy it is to give in to the urge to make sure everything is perfect. Yes, college applications are very important, but this is your senior year! This is the last time you will be in high school, and whether you are excited or scared for what comes next, this year is important too. Hang out with your friends, go to a carnival, or simply stay in bed for a day. The more stressed you are, the more jumbled up your thoughts will be.
You’ve got this. Just know that you aren’t alone. As long as you put forth the effort, you will be great—no matter what college you get into!