Senior Year is stressful, and college applications don't make it any easier. After going through the many ups and downs of the application process last year, I realized it would have been a much less stressful time had I known what I know now. So here are the 5 things that I wish I could've told myself during the college application process:
- Don't just Google to learn about colleges, use books. Most high schools make you sign up for Naviance (and if yours doesn't, you should look it up), and you have to sign up for CollegeBoard for the SAT, but the most useful tool I found while I was searching for schools was the College Board book of the top 377 schools in the nation. This book included gender ratios; academic averages of the previous incoming class; financial cost, and their financial aid rating; social rankings, such as the most liberal schools and schools with the most vegan options; and so much more than you'll find on just search sites alone.
- Make lists. While going through the 377 Top Schools book, I made a list including every school that I liked based on what I read about the atmosphere of the schools. I then narrowed down the list to 10 schools that I actually liked after seeing pictures and reading about them online. Ten is the maximum amount of schools you should have on this list, because you want to be able to visit all, or most, of them. After visiting the schools on my list I was able to narrow my choices to six. Having these lists helped me see what my true priorities for a school were by the reasons I was eliminating certain schools.
- Do not NOT worry about cost. When I first started looking at schools I had my heart set on NYU. It was my dream school, as soon as I set foot on campus I didn't want to look at any other school. But I never considered the cost. In your college search you need to be realistic with the cost, and how much aid a school typically gives, because if you aren't you'll only be disappointed in the end. On Say Yes to the Dress; brides always go in with a budget, and when they try a dress on that's outside of their budget, and fall in love with it, they can never find the right dress afterwards because their always comparing it to that out-of-budget one. Looking for the perfect college is like looking for the perfect dress: stay in your budget. You'll have a much easier time making a final decision when you know you can afford all your top colleges.
- Apply Early Action (if it's possible) Early Action is amazing because you find out the decision in December instead of March or April. It doesn't require any more work than regular decision, you just have to be ready to apply early. Perks of Early Action, other than knowing earlier, include: being able to get priority housing for your school-of-choice, more time to decide between schools before the May 1 deadline, and a chance to stock up on school apparel during the holidays.
- Writing supplements on the CommonApp do not have to be submitted before the application deadline. A lot of the more competitive universities will require writing supplements in addition to the Big essay, but this doesn't mean you have to apply regular decision, you can still apply early. The CommonApp allows you to submit just the regular application on before or on the due date and gives you up to an additional month (depending not he school) to complete any writing supplements.
I hope these five things help any of you future college students make the right decision for you while keeping you sane throughout the process.