Feb   2016



The Most Helpful Things I Learned When Applying to College

High School Student
Last Updated: Feb 20, 2016

My last January deadline has passed, and I’m thankful to say that my college application process has come to an end. Though this point in my life was inevitable, it doesn’t feel real. Part of me is still waiting for the next time I’ll be able to take the SAT, and sometimes I find myself logging onto CollegeBoard.org to find out when the next exam date is.

I suppose this process won’t truly end for me until I’ve received my letters of acceptance (or denial…). However, looking back now on my journey to this point, I wish I knew more about what the college application process truly entails. So I’ve composed a list of tips and good-to-know facts I hadn’t been aware of before I applied to college—but wish I had been.

  • Start early! I know it says this in absolutely every single college application guide ever, but definitely do it. Don’t assume it’s too early to start your college search. The more time you give yourself, the better. Sit and make lists and read advice and write anything you think could help you. Plus, the more you put off your college search, the more likely you’ll be crying at 2:00 a.m. on the day your applications are due, worrying about your future (and trust me, I’ve been there).
  • Even if your grades are great, you need to put an equal amount of effort into your college search and application, or it may all have been done in vain.
  • Really get to know your colleges. There’s a lot more to deciding what schools you’d like to attend than visiting campuses and finding out whether or not a school offers your desired major. You need to get a feel for the type of people the school is accepting and producing, as well as what your place will be in that school. Make some notes and lists of what you find too. A lot of colleges will ask you straight out why you chose their school, and you want to make sure your answer is intelligent, knowledgeable, and interesting. They’d also like to see that you can add an element to their campus that they’re currently lacking.
  • Apply for any opportunities that fit you. One of my biggest regrets has been not applying for the QuestBridge scholarship search, which links low-income students to top-rated schools all over the country, based on an application and other requirements. I didn’t do it, because I was scared of rejection. Don’t let that get in your way! There are opportunities like QuestBridge, and tons of other scholarships out there. It’s better to try and fail than to wonder what could have happened.
  • Some schools accept unofficial SAT/ACT reports, such as those that might appear on your transcript, so contact the school before spending one of your four reports or sending an additional score.
  • Make sure you know if you have additional financial aid forms to send in. There’s the FAFSA, sure. But you also might need to fill out a CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, which is essentially a financial aid report that is sent to your selected schools. Each of your colleges might have different forms and deadline, so watch out for them!
  • If you can’t afford to apply to a school, but don’t have a fee waiver left, you can have your guidance counselor contact the school (or do so yourself) stating that you’re unable to pay the application fee but would like to apply. The school is likely to waive the fee.
  • Take risks in applying, such as seizing every opportunity that comes to you, and applying to dream/reach schools you might not necessarily have the average grades for, but you love (just make sure you apply to safety/target schools as well).

Hopefully, these tips will be helpful to you. Applying to college is nerve-racking, but it is also exhilarating. This is the big moment we all wait for, and it’ll come. In fact, it’ll be here before you even know it. So stay on top of your work, and take the college application process as seriously as possible. Good luck!

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About Mariela Pichardo

Mariela Pichardo is a 17-year-old high school senior from Yonkers, New York, but is currently based in Middletown, New York. She has an affinity for old films, female impersonation, and classic literature. She intends to study English and Spanish in the fall of 2016 in the Big Apple.


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