Surviving the College Application Process

Erin Tozier, Editor in Chief

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Fall is in full swing, meaning the temperatures are dropping, leaves are crunching, and colleges are beginning to receive applications from the upcoming class of 2017. As seniors made the most of their last football season at Central and enjoyed the Halloween festivities with friends, feelings of fear and uncertainty loomed in the back of their minds. Where should I go to college? How do I make sure I get into my top school? Some may even be panicking, I haven’t applied anywhere yet! What do I do?
If that sounds like your thoughts recently, this is for you.

Don’t feel pressured to apply early.
Some of your friends or classmates may have already sent out applications, and perhaps even gotten letters back already. While applying early can be great thing– it gives you an answer sooner, and offers more time to figure out financial details– it might not be for you, and that’s okay. Regular admission exists for a reason! If you are uncertain about a top choice for a school, or are worried that the numbers won’t get you in (your GPA, SAT score, that sort of thing) then wait to apply regularly. Look up what the various application requirements are for the schools that you are interested in, and do whatever feels most beneficial (and less stressful) for you.

When deciding on a school, make sure to account for price, location, and what it offers you personally.
Don’t apply to a school based on a sole factor. If you want to attend an Ivy League, that’s incredible, and you should pursue that dream. However, if you care more about the name on the sign than what’s inside, you should maybe reconsider. As you’re searching for the right college for you, take into consideration not only its academics, but average tuition and expenses, distance from home, sports offered, majors available, housing styles, and any other personal preferences. Not everyone can afford to dish out 50 grand a year, and if you hate the noise and hubbub of city life, you won’t want to spend the next four years in a major metropolitan university. Go into the college searching process with an open mind, but make sure to set guidelines for yourself and have an idea of what you’re looking for in a school. Do you prefer a large or small campus? Student body size? What kinds of extracurriculars are crucial to you? Do you want to dorm or commute? In state or out of state? Are you hoping to participate in Greek life? Do you prefer public of private universities? Keep these things in mind as you look, and make note of which schools offer each.

College doesn’t have to be expensive.
Contrary to popular belief, not every school will break your (or your parents’) bank. If your parents are helping pay for your schooling, sit down and talk about your budget. To help contribute, you can get a part time job and start saving. Some students make deals– their parents will loan them the money, rather than having them take out student loans, but they will pay it all back once able. You may also fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the FAFSA for short, to assist in covering some of the cost. Your parents fill out information online about your household income and demographics, and you may end up eligible for a lot of money from federal grants. Know where you stand financially, but also keep in mind that there are millions of dollars out there in scholarship money that go unclaimed every year. Which leads me to my next point…

You do not have to be straight A student to qualify for scholarships.
So many students believe that scholarships are only for “smart” kids. This is not true! While merit based scholarships offer a lot of aid, they are not the only type you can apply for. Besides merit based and athletic scholarships, there are also countless less commonly known opportunities to win money– if you know what you are eligible for and where to look for them. Start hunting. A lot of insurance companies, power providers, and car dealerships offer scholarships to their consumers. Some require an essay, while some are as easy as completing a survey or clicking a few buttons. My advice to you is to apply for as many as you possibly can. Check out websites, books, and mobile apps that condense a list of sccollegeholarships for you and apply to all that you qualify for. The amounts can rage from the hundreds to the thousands, and trust me, every little bit counts. The money is out there, you just have to find it.

Scope out the place before applying.
Go. On. Tours. The school allows for up to four excused absences a year for both juniors and seniors, as long as official documentation and proof of the visit are turned in afterward. Don’t commit to a school you have never seen. You are going to be living there for the next four years, so make sure you like it! Pay attention to the layout, the architecture, the transportation available, and the students’ way of doing things. Talk to admissions counselors, schedule an interview or a Q&A session, and really get to know the school as you are considering. Pictures you find online are great, but nothing beats experiencing it firsthand and knowing exactly what you’re getting into before applying.

Apply to 3-5 different schools.
It is recommended that you apply to one or two “reach” schools, and a handful of backups, in case you don’t get into those or decide they’re not for you after all. However you may not have selected distinct reach and backup colleges, and that’s okay too! Narrow down your potential places to five or under if possible, mostly because most applications come with a fee and you don’t want to spend a fortune on apps. Always have at least one backup though, one that you are guaranteed to get into if all else fails.

Spend time on your application
The goal of your application is to make the college want you. Don’t procrastinate on filling them out, and remember that every part counts. Do not be modest either, this is your time to show colleges what you’ve accomplished throughout high school and what you can bring to their campus. Ask for help if you need! Have your teachers read and edit your essays for you, or advise you on how to better showcase your strengths. Put a lot of effort into your application, and the colleges are much more likely to reciprocate that effort back into convincing you to attend.Get in touch with the students.
If you know someone who is currcollege-admissions1ently enrolled at the school you have expressed interest in, text or email them and see if they are willing to give you perspective on what it’s like to be at the college. Some may even allow you to come visit them on campus and spend a day seeing what life is like there. If you are not familiar with someone personally, try reaching out to people through social media that you know go to the school. (Hashtags are very handy in this situation.) Most college kids are more than happy to talk about their school and help answer your questions, and you will often find you can relate better to the students than the people at admissions. Plus, if you end up going to that school, you’ve already made some friends!

Don’t stress.
Though this seems like the simplest piece of advice, but it is arguably the most crucial. College can be scary, yes, but it is also one of the greatest adventures we’ve known this far in our lives. As you’re feeling overwhelmed and maybe like you’re drowning in applications and deadlines and so many different options, keep in mind that the goal is to go somewhere that makes you happy. Your education is inexpressibly valuable, and as you pursue the chance to further it through universities, make sure you don’t lose yourself in the process.

Breathe. It will all be okay. You’ve got this.

Now go out there and kick some college application butt.

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