In honor of many of my friends starting their senior year of high school tomorrow, I’m posting the second part of my college application series today. Sounds fun, right? You can read the first part here. This post is going to wrap up things you might want to consider before applying to schools. For those of you have already narrowed down your list, I commend you. When it came to applying to schools, I was a bit of a procrastinator. I’ll explain why in a bit.
Undecided? There’s a lot of pressure to know what you want to do with the rest of your life when you’re just seventeen. Frankly, it’s a little ridiculous. Obviously, if you know it’s your destiny to be a doctor some day, investigate institutions with strong science departments or have competitive medical schools. But in college, people (and their majors) change. For many people, it’s a good idea to keep your options open, which is what’s great about research universities and liberal arts colleges. If you have some idea of possible major, it’s smart to find out what a school is known for or what the most popular majors are.
Private vs. Public. Money is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to college. I might do a whole post on financial aid, but to make a long story short, don’t let the high price tag of private schools discourage you from applying. Since they have larger endowments, they may actually be cheaper than public schools. It’s definitely not always the case, but it doesn’t hurt to apply. The point I’m trying to make is don’t hesitate to apply to a mix of private and public schools.
Early Bird. One of the most annoying things about applications is all the new terminology they throw at you! Among them: early decision, early action, regular admission, and rolling admissions. Not all schools offer each of these options and they each may have their own caveats. Each type of admission deadline has its own pros and cons, so choose wisely and make sure there are no conflicts. (For example, applying early decision is often a binding contract that limits your ability to apply to other schools.) Since I had no clear-cut first choice, I didn’t apply ED anywhere and applied EA wherever I could because I wanted the relief of hearing from schools before Christmas. Whichever option you chose, I would turn in your application as soon as possible. You don’t want to stress out your entire fall semester, plus it’ll give you time to correct any mistakes you might make. And you don’t want to panicking on New Year’s Eve because a slow dial-up connection in Colombia is preventing you from turning in an application. Trust me.
Safety Net. You’ll probably hear this a million times: apply to “safety”, “fit”, and “reach” schools. I only repeat it because it bears doing so. A safety school is one you shouldn’t have a problem getting into, usually a local state school or something of the sort where your grades and test scores would be above average. A match/fit school is one whose student body had high school resumes similar to yours. You’re likely to get in but it’s not a done deal. A reach school is one that’s harder to get into; your scores and grades maybe on the lower end of that school’s spectrum. The best thing to do is to apply to a few schools in each category. You never know what may happen, and you don’t want to always wonder what would’ve happened if you had applied to x school.
Visit! I understand that visiting isn’t in everyone’s budgets- I mean, just applying to schools adds up! Still, when possible, I would recommend visiting campuses. (Actually, all the campus pictures in these posts are my personal photos from college tours.) Some people prefer to visit after being accepted in the spring, but that might leave you in a time crunch. If possible, try to visit before you apply. By the start of my senior year, I had narrowed my list down to about fifteen, sixteen schools. Since many were in Boston or the New York area, my dad and I planned a marathon college tour in late September. We saw eight schools in five days- tours and info sessions! I learned a lot on that trip. It wasn’t just facts and figures about the schools themselves, but about what I was looking for. My overall lesson: I could live in a city environment, as long as my school had a central campus and strong community vibe. Each person can gain a different perspective during college visits, but they can definitely change your opinion and making a mistake in the future.
Talk to your parents. Whether or not your parents are providing financial support for college, you’ll need their emotional support while you go through the application process. It gets stressful, and their guidance is invaluable. Ultimately, you’re the one who will be attending college soon, so it’s a good idea to start being independent and do much of the research on your own. But keep your parents clued in throughout the process.
So what do you think? Did my advice help? For those of you who’ve already been through the process, do you have anymore advice? Do my suggestions remind you of anything you did? I look forward to seeing what you guys think!