At this time last year, I was in the midst of creating a list of colleges to apply to. I had schools from all over New England. I did not really know what I wanted; therefore, my list included city schools, small private schools, large state universities, schools an hour away, and even a school in Spain. It felt awesome to finally be done with applications and know where I will be come August. The other day, one of my friends who is a year younger than me asked for some advice about senior year and the application process. This lead me to develop a list of facts I wish someone told me about the process of applying before I began.
1. It costs money.
Going into the application process in September, I did not realize that there would be application fees. Depending on how many schools you apply to, it can get costly. Many state schools charge more on application fees than private colleges because more people apply to them. I believe the most I paid for an application fee was $75 and that was for my University of Massachusetts Amherst application. You will get some application fee waivers from campus visits and emails, but the majority of your applications will have a hefty fee that goes along with it. On top of that, it costs money to send your SAT scores to all your colleges. To send your SAT scores it costs approximately $11.25 per score report. I ended up applying to nine colleges, seven private colleges and two state universities. Between the application fees and the cost to send two sets of scores to each college, I was shocked at how expensive it was.
2. You will write more than one college essay.
I wrote a partial first draft of my college essay during the summer prior to my senior year of high school because I wanted to get it over with. I started it then and probably did not look at it until late September. When I finally got back to it, I hated it and restarted with a new prompt. I must have read and edited that essay a million times and I had some of my friends edit it for me, as well. My Common Application essay took me two attempts and two different prompts to generate a paper that I was proud of. It did not stop there.
Two of my schools were not on the Common App and one of them was abroad, meaning there was an entirely different process. This meant one thing: more essays. Also, if you decide to apply for honors programs, you will be shocked to find out that it requires two to three more essays per school. I wrote in total 11 essays and six of them were for schools I did not end up attending.
3. Your first choice school during the application process may not be the one you attend.
In October of my senior year, I went to every possible open house I could. I toured schools in the center of the city, schools on the coast, and even schools up in the mountains of Vermont. I got a feel for every option and had my heart set on two possible schools. One was in Vermont, and it was the typical, small, New England campus. It had been my number one choice since my junior year. I ended up eliminating it because I realized when I was driving up there that it was a little too far away for me. My overall number one was perfect. It had a similar campus feel and it was only an hour away from home. I loved every aspect of it, except for the price. Even though I loved the school, it was not a viable option unless I wanted to be paying off loans until I was elderly.
I ended up choosing a school that was not originally on my list. I applied last minute in the parking lot of my brother’s high school and toured it in January. I fell in love with it. At the time, I had problems eliminating my number one choice, but I am so excited to be going to the school I chose next year. It is not too far, it is affordable, and it has the small, close-knit community that I was looking for. Your list will change as you look at more schools, but you also need be flexible when it comes to big aspects like price and location.
4. The applications themselves aren’t stressful; the waiting is.
It was not just the waiting for acceptance letters that stressed me out, but also waiting for my teachers to submit my letters of recommendation. Once you finish your application, the rest of the process is out of your hands. It is up to your guidance office to mail out transcripts, it is up to your teachers to send out letters of recommendation, and it is up to the College Board to mail test scores. That part is beyond stressful because you have zero control. You can harass your teachers to turn those letters in, but I would not because they are taking their time to write it for you. I took the October SAT and was applying all early action. The scores would be out in time, but the actual sending was delayed. Luckily, all my admissions counselors were lenient on that because everyone was in the same boat. Once every document is submitted, there is a sense of relief. Then you check the mailbox everyday until your letter comes. It does not matter what the letter says, you just need to know.
5. No feeling compares to when you finally choose your school!It may not have been your first choice when you began the college process back in junior year, but it is now. You have made it. This will be your new home for the next four years. As soon as you make that decision, your first instinct is to post it on Facebook and then you will most certainly be wearing your school’s apparel to school the following day. Then comes the early dorm shopping. The excitement reaches its boiling point when you finally graduate from high school. You are leaving a school that has been your home for the past four years, and now you are heading off to a brand new one. You are confident that you made the right choice, and college orientation confirms it. Every time you visit campus for an accepted students day or orientation, you fall in love with your new school all over again.
Good luck to the class of 2017 and try to enjoy the process!