As you enter high school, you may notice an interesting phenomenon—one that only gets more intense as you start your junior year. By the time you hit senior year, it may become a daily annoyance: everyone you know is asking you about your college search. It could be a simple question from your dentist as he cleans your teeth or a comment from your aunt during the holidays. Where are you applying to college? Not only does everyone ask about your college prospects, but they also offer advice, telling you where to apply or even how to study for the SAT. Annoying, isn’t it? So how do you sort through all the advice you receive? How do you know what to listen to and what to ignore? Here are three ways to figure out how to filter through all the advice you receive about the college process.
1. Identify the experts
The first step in sorting through college advice is to figure out who you should listen to. Anyone who hasn’t applied to college in the last five years or worked closely with someone who has recently is not up to speed on what’s happening in the world of college admission. The college process changes rapidly, and with the global pandemic, it’s changing year to year. What worked for someone two years ago may not be applicable for someone who’s applying to colleges today. Be sure to take stock of who’s around you. Find out who is up to date on what’s happening with the college application process. This could be your school counselor or a trusted teacher. You can also find trusted advice online—but make sure the websites you seek information from are trusted sources—like CollegeXpress, which offers blogs and articles written by admission experts and students like you.
2. Set some boundaries
You can take control of unsolicited advice by taking control of the conversation before it even starts. You may decide early in your college process who you’re willing to talk about it with and who you aren’t. So when you get unsolicited advice from your neighbor or an extended relative, have a response ready that shuts down the conversation before it even gets going. This can be as simple as “I’m still researching my options,” then redirect the conversation. By shutting down the topic, you take control over where the conversation goes and what type of advice you receive. You may also decide to keep conversations about the college process close to home. By not talking about the process at school or with your classmates, you’ll shield yourself from being bombarded with questions.
Related: The Best (and Worst) College Advice
3. Listen to who matters
The one person who truly matters in this process is you. Sure, you need to listen to your parents, especially regarding college costs and other factors. However, what really matters is figuring out what you want from your college process. The best way to do this is to get to know yourself. It’s essential to ask questions about what you’re looking for in your college experience. Doing personality assessments or asking yourself some simple questions can help frame the expectations you have about your college search process.
One of the most challenging aspects of applying to college is making sure you don’t get caught up in all the hype. It’s easy to hear rumors or urban legends about how a student was admitted to 10 highly selective universities and think you’re doing everything wrong. Remember, by doing careful, intentional research and following your plan, you’ll have a successful college admission process that even your nosey aunt will be proud of.
If you’re looking for some good, reliable advice to start with, consider this College Search Advice From an Admission Insider.