College Applicant Survival Tips (Part 1)

If you’re a highschooler and you’re reading this post, you might be thinking about college.  (If you have other plans, that’s cool too, but as the title indicates, this post is written with those who are going to college in mind.)  Some people know exactly where they want to go, and hopefully what their second choice is if the first doesn’t work out.  Some people aren’t too concerned about where they’ll go, they’ll just apply somewhere and see what happens.  And some (including myself a two or three years ago) want to go to a good school but don’t know which one.  I’m now a college junior and have (obviously) been through the process of applying, so here are some tips and what-to-expects that might help you.  First off, the process in general:

  1. Don’t know where to start?  Try looking up “Top [your major] schools,” or “Best [state] schools,” or something similar.  (Just beware that different lists use different criteria, and not all criteria may be useful to you.)  Especially look at in-state schools, depending on your financial means – they have lower tuition costs and sometimes more scholarship opportunities for state residents.  Or maybe you have other factors you’re looking for, like online courses.  Start there and see what’s offered.
  2. If you aren’t a millionaire, hit the scholarship search hard.  Schools have quite a few of their own, and there are outside sources too.  Here’s one site I used that was really helpful in finding non-school-specific scholarships that I qualified for: careeronestop.
  3. Start early.  The school deadlines to turn in admittance applications look like they give you plenty of time, but they’re really the last deadline there is.  If you want to apply for scholarships, honors programs, or other things, they may have earlier deadlines, and it helps to start several months before.  Especially depending on how many different places you’re applying to.  I procrastinated getting serious about applications until after I took the ACT for the last time in October, and because I was applying to several schools and the accompanying scholarships etc., I was constantly scrambling to meet deadline after approaching deadline for a while. I also got no sleep.  Don’t be me.
  4. Which leads to the next point: I noticed that among the schools, scholarships, and programs I applied for, the more prestigious they were, the more work the application required and the earlier the deadline was.  I don’t know if this holds true for all schools, but keep it in mind.
  5. If you want to get into the top schools, prep for the ACT (or SAT) like your life depends on it.  They have average ACT scores in the 30’s.
  6. Prepare to be deluged with tons of emails for a while.  Although come to think of it, you’ll still get lots of emails even when you pick a school and once you actually start classes, so just accept that your inbox will never be the same again (if it was quiet before)…
  7. Don’t stress about finding the perfect school right away, or studying up on them all.  You’ll learn more than you might have wanted to know as you study for application essays and the like, and if you’re limited by finances, the list will narrow itself as you receive financial aid offers.  I ended up choosing Mizzou because my list was only down to two options financially, and between the two, I liked Mizzou’s campus more than the other when I toured them.

I still have a handful of notes to go, so tune in next time for part two, where I’ll share a few tips related more to the applications themselves. And of course, feel free to share any thoughts in the comments!

2 thoughts on “College Applicant Survival Tips (Part 1)”

  1. Excellent list – thanks! It’s nearly time for Ian to get started on his college search, so this will be a great resource for him. 😀

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