Published on July 28th, 2023
College is like a portal to a new world. A world where you’ll meet new people and have new experiences.
A world where you take full ownership of decisions and their outcomes. A world that takes you one step closer to your dreams.
The idea of going to college is exciting, but the process of getting into college can be exhausting.
When applying to colleges, you need to walk the tightrope between your dreams and your reality. Think positive, but be practical.
The secret to getting ahead is to get started early. Some families start planning for college admissions in the eighth grade.
If you know which college you want to go to and what its requirements are, things are relatively easier.
It’s not as simple for students who are overwhelmed by the number of options available. Some make decisions based on catchy marketing campaigns, while others may follow their friends.
Applying to the right college is not a leap of faith. It is an algorithmic process by which you take a calculated risk and step toward the future you want.
Here are five tips on how to evaluate the myriad of colleges and ace the application process.
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1. Do Your Homework
Your friends, your friends’ friends, and random people on social media sites are not reliable guides for college applications.
You can call individual colleges to clarify questions after scouring their websites or work with a one-stop college admissions consultant. The bottom line is that you need to consult the experts to get accurate and timely information.
Requirements, timelines, and processes vary from college to college, so you must be on top of your game.
College fairs and workshops are great places to meet representatives in person and ask them about the school’s academic structure.
For firsthand information about campus culture, talk to students who are currently enrolled there — the admissions office can put you in touch. Network with other college applicants so you can compare notes and discuss preferences.
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2. Take Your Application Up A Notch
Your application is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Many students make the mistake of rushing to finish a college essay.
To make matters worse, they might ask AI tools to write their essays for them. The whole idea of the personal statement is for it to be personal. Without mentioning incidents from your life or things you feel strongly about, the essay will sound generic and boring.
That’s not to say you should ignore the nuts and bolts, though. No matter how good your content is, typographical errors can disrupt the reader’s momentum.
Proofread your personal statement thoroughly before submitting it. It’s also a good idea to show it to someone who is sensible and reliable enough to critique it properly.
Another person’s point of view can shine a whole new light on how the essay reflects on you.
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3. Check Out The Campus
Taking a close friend or family member for a campus tour can help tremendously. While you may be mesmerized by the size of the gym, they’ll pay attention to campus security.
Make a checklist of all the places you want to see. Don’t forget to include dorms, dining halls, and the library, as that could be where you spend most of your time.
Don’t just follow the tour guide and look at the buildings all day. Seize this opportunity to meet some students.
Ask them what it’s like to live on (or off) campus and inquire about the professors and their teaching methods.
Get a feel of the culture of the college. And don’t forget to ask about healthcare services offered; you’ll rest easier if you know you have appropriate health coverage.
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4. Keep Money Matters In Mind
Another common stressor at the back of every student’s (and parent’s) mind is college costs.
It’s natural to want to go to your dream school, but is it worth tens of thousands of dollars in loans? Every student’s financial, social, and academic situation is different.
There may be a way to secure more financial aid or a bigger scholarship. You just need to invest the time and effort to find it.
Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (aka, the FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for federal, state and college aid. Look for any grants that you could apply for.
Many students end up taking out loans, but understanding what the payment plan entails is another task. Speak to a financial aid counselor.
Whichever method of financial assistance you select, read the fine print now to avoid unnecessary stress later.
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5. Stay Positive
Thinking about the future can be stressful. Do everything you can to apply to the right colleges — including some “safety schools” — and then leave it to destiny to take you there.
Draw a clear line between planning and worrying. Be mentally prepared to be put on waiting lists and even rejected outright.
Stay positive and think of the exciting opportunities that await you no matter which school you attend.
The college application process should not force you to withdraw into a cave for a few months.
Go out with friends, eat well, exercise regularly, and control your thoughts. Those are the skills that will prepare you the most for college.
Make the most of your summer before college. Enjoy your time with your high school friends, as everyone won’t be in college together.
With demanding schedules and activities, you may not even be able to give enough time to your family once you’re at school. Revel in the warmth of your childhood memories, as soon you’ll be off to make some new ones.