College applications have long been completed by this point in a high school senior's journey. I remember how I breathed out an immense sigh of relief when I clicked the 'Submit' button on the last college application I had yet to finish on my Common App account. That hellish journey is all over now, thank goodness!
But now we have another journey to embark on: the heart-wrenching wait for college decisions. Just when you thought it was all over, you find yourself thinking and re-thinking the same questions, over and over again: Was my essay good enough? Did I correct that transcript error before I submitted? Did my tax returns go through on time? And, as always: will I get in?
From a person who has just completed this process, here are the three most important things to know for my fellow high school students who have yet to even think about this journey. Believe me, following the majority of this advice will make this process a whole lot easier--and less gut-wrenching--for you in the near, inevitable future.
Firstly, SAT scores DO matter. Forget what your college counselor has been telling you in the past--these seemingly trivial “numbers” are the difference between getting yourself ultimately in a college and getting your application thrown in the trash. It’s a sad fact of life, but it’s true.
One has to keep in mind that colleges--especially top-notch ones, but even state schools, as well--receive applications from competitive, prospective students from across the country. Thus, if your application doesn’t match up number-wise, that’s just one factor of your application that may put you at a disadvantage. So study hard, and earn that score. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but high enough to show that you are dedicated to the cause, and the college! But keep in mind that while scores do matter, they AREN’T everything. Because it has been proven that a good enough essay may eat up the negatives of an application. Which brings me to my next point.
Essays are everything! A lot of people think that if you just get that perfect standardized test score, you’re set, but it’s definitely the opposite. I know many people who’ve gotten extremely high test scores but still have gotten rejected from schools like Harvard and Stanford just because their essay wasn’t up to par. But what exactly do I mean?
The reason why essays are so important when it comes to the college application process is that these essays are the only way the admissions officers will get a taste of who you are as a person. Reading these essays provides colleges with your unique voice with which you are talking about your own life, struggles, passions, etc. And depending on your creativity, that essay alone may be the key to unlocking your admission somewhere! Just last year, Johns Hopkins University reported that one admitted student wrote an essay about hot dogs. You see? College admissions may be a crap-shoot in the end, but the essay is the one thing you can control. So take advantage of it, and have fun with it! An enjoyable essay will earn more brownie points than just another perfect SAT score.
Finally, my last piece of advice is to utilize the additional information section in every application you complete. This may be even more important than your SAT score, or even your essay, for that matter. Let me explain:
Sometimes, students who would make a great fit at some top-notch universities can’t even consider those schools due to extenuating circumstances in their life. For example, an intelligent pupil can’t get that great test score because he or she can’t afford pricey test prep books like other applicants. Or, another applicant doesn’t have as many fantastic extracurriculars as her competitors do because she has to work two jobs in order to help her parents make ends meet. See what I’m saying? This section can be used to tell the admissions staff about certain areas of your life that you can’t clearly convey in the rest of the app, so be sure to fill it out. This way you can ensure your application is fairly judged, and further guarantee a successful acceptance.
So that’s it! Hopefully, these pieces of advice can help you out in the college applications you fill out in your senior year. Unfortunately, I didn’t have someone there to tell me these things ahead of time, but even so I managed to--mostly--follow these guidelines. And so, I pass it on to you in hopes you can make your dreams come true. Good luck to all who go through this process! You just might need it.