What College Admission Counselors Wish You Knew

As you go through your college application process, there will come a time when you think to yourself: “I wish I could peek inside college admission counselors’ brains. Just so I could know what they’re thinking. Just for a second!”

Well, we’re here to tell you: they wish you could too.

Here’s what admission counselors from colleges and universities across the country wish you knew about your college search and the application process. So remember their words—and don’t be afraid to ask them your questions!

And if you’re looking for more expert college help—whether it’s with your college search and admission questions, financial aid, picking a major, student life, internships, and more—make sure you visit CollegeXpress.com. (Especially the Ask the Experts page!)

Apply early

Make sure you are applying early. A lot of time students wait until the last minute to apply and then they miss out on scholarship opportunities. And I know that’s pretty much the same across the board, regardless of it being a private or a public school, or STEM-focused or liberal arts. — Michelle Powell, Admissions Counselor at Florida Polytechnic University

What it's all about

When we review an application, a big part of the decision comes down to a few questions: Will the applicant be successful here? Will the applicant take advantage of all the opportunities at the university? — Timothy Lee, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at University at Albany

If you’re undecided, it’s okay!

High school seniors feel so much pressure to have a major chosen by the time they get to college, but there is actually no rush. It is better to be undecided for a year and get some classes under your belt than to jump into something that may not be right for you. Explore classes to make sure you choose a degree that you’ll enjoy. — Amy D. Smith, Director, Office of Admissions, Georgia Southern University

Get. Those. Scholarships.

Seek out scholarships. They will not come directly to you; you will need to do some digging. Talk to your high school counselor, your pastor at church, your parents’ workplaces, etc. Apply like crazy to outside scholarships, and keep an eye on those deadlines! — Tina Miranda, Assistant Director of Admissions at Grand View University

Get to know the lingo

Know your college cost terminology: what is the difference between scholarships (merit-based aid) and financial aid (need-based aid)? Are you asking about total cost of attendance (includes room and board) or just tuition? It can be a minefield of terms, so ask for clarification if you are confused. Also, don’t limit your initial college searches by assuming out-of-state or private schools are cost prohibitive. There are so many great institutions that offer fantastic scholarship awards and financial aid packages that you do yourself a disservice by automatically discounting them. — Anne-Browning Wilson, Assistant Director—Texas, West Coast at Mississippi State University

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask the questions you feel like you need to lean in and whisper to say. There is no silly question, and when it comes to choosing the place you’ll call home for the next several years, everything you feel matters. I promise, we’ve heard it all. — Lauren O. Wallace, Associate Director of Recruitment at University of Pittsburgh

Maximize your potential

Some families say that choosing a college is like shopping for a car, but the college experience is more than another set of wheels. It’s more like buying land that you learn to develop over time. Furthermore, your education can provide the learning environment to maximize your potential and your personal development while providing opportunities to practice leadership, making ethical decisions and acting responsibly as members of a global society.  — Dean Altstaetter, Coordinator of Outreach Recruitment and Enrollment Advisor at Ohio Northern University

There's no such thing as perfect

I wish students knew that there is no “one perfect college” for them. There may be four, six, eight, or more. The goal isn’t to find that magical perfect fit but to do research, visit campuses, and find one of the colleges that will be a great fit and go there. — Teege Mettille, Executive Director of Admissions at Northland College

Think beyond the campus

The university you pick should be more than just the campus. Explore the city and make sure it offers everything that makes you you. Your university should be surrounded by a community that supports your passions with internship or career opportunities as well as places for fun and relaxation. — Kristin Harris, Senior Enrollment Counselor at Boise State University

Don't be scared!

The admission process is not as complicated as you may think! Help us help you by doing your best to stick to suggested deadlines and communicate any and all questions you may have so that we can do our best to serve you! — Stephanie Sisk, Admission Counselor at Southeastern University

Start ASAP

I wish that high school students knew that they cannot wait until May of their senior year to start applying for scholarships, and that freshman-year decisions will influence their future finances. — Stephen Bailey, Admission Counselor at Southeastern University

Edit your application!!!

When it comes to application essays, edit, edit, edit. We read a lot of college apps, and it’s clear who cared enough to take it seriously and who simply wanted to apply to another school. Colleges and universities differ a great deal, and what makes sense for one will not necessarily make sense for another. — Paul Charles, Admissions Officer at Eastern University

Here to help

Admission counselors are here to support you. Whether it’s a question on dropping a class, scheduling a visit, etc., reach out to us. We are here for you! And we love answering questions and want to make sure you have all the information you need in making your final college selection. — Danielle Widmer, Assistant Director of Admissions at University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire

Still searching for the perfect college for you so you can use all this handy advice? Use the CollegeXpress College Search to find the right-fit schools for you.

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