5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying To College

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying To College

The curses of the process that lead to unimaginable outcomes

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!

Cover Image Credit: Maplewood Library

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3 Reasons Why Step Dads Are Super Dads


I often hear a lot of people complaining about their step-parents and wondering why they think that they have any authority over them. Although I know that everyone has different situations, I will be the first to admit that I am beyond blessed to have a step dad. Yep, I said it. My life wouldn't be the same that it is not without him in it. Let me tell you why I think step dads are the greatest things since sliced bread.

1. They will do anything for you, literally.

My stepdad has done any and every thing for me. From when I was little until now. He was and still is my go-to. If I was hungry, he would get me food. If something was broken, he would fix it. If I wanted something, he would normally always find a way to get it. He didn't spoil me (just sometimes), but he would make sure that I was always taken care of.

SEE ALSO: The Thank You That Step-Parents Deserve

2. Life lessons.

Yup, the tough one. My stepdad has taught me things that I would have never figured out on my own. He has stood beside me through every mistake. He has been there to pick me up when I am down. My stepdad is like the book of knowledge: crazy hormonal teenage edition. Boy problems? He would probably make me feel better. He just always seemed to know what to say. I think that the most important lesson that I have learned from my stepdad is: to never give up. My stepdad has been through three cycles of leukemia. He is now in remission, yay!! But, I never heard him complain. I never heard him worry and I never saw him feeling sorry for himself. Through you, I found strength.

3. He loved me as his own.

The big one, the one that may seem impossible to some step parents. My stepdad is not actually my stepdad, but rather my dad. I will never have enough words to explain how grateful I am for this man, which is why I am attempting to write this right now. It takes a special kind of human to love another as if they are their own. There had never been times where I didn't think that my dad wouldn't be there for me. It was like I always knew he would be. He introduces me as his daughter, and he is my dad. I wouldn't have it any other way. You were able to show me what family is.

So, dad... thanks. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for loving my mom. Thanks for giving me a wonderful little sister. Thanks for being someone that I can count on. Thanks for being my dad.

I love you!

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Mourning The Loss

She had no direction and already felt like she had lost herself, anyway.


She wore her heart on her sleeve but covered her innermost feeling with laughs, smiles, and awkward jokes that only some thought were funny at all. She was happy on the outside and this got her to the place where she is now. Faking it till she made it made sense until she realized she didn't know what she was making it to.

Regardless, she was a bright light in the hallways of her grade school filled with small plastic chairs and brown square desks. She acted most days as a clown in the classroom in order for her to get some kind of attention. She worked on Accelerated Math and reading books extensively, and in her free time her studying habits were almost obsessive.

Brianna Gavin

When asked to do anything for anyone, she dropped all of what she was doing to help.

High school came around and after being separated from her best friend going to a different school, she knew this time she really had to reinvent herself. At first, she stayed in the bubble of grade school friends and found it hard to ever speak up about anything.

Brianna Gavin

She kept her mouth shut for the first year of high school and lived in the shadows of her siblings' bad decisions. That first year, teachers even called her "little Gavin".

As sophomore year of high school came around, she met a teacher that would forever change her life and brought her out of the shadow of her siblings past. She was the first teacher in that high school to see her as her own person, different from her family.

After meeting this teacher, she stepped into the role of being a leader. She went to summer leadership camps and became actively involved in the Social Committee of Student Council. She created a service club and became the president. She got over 100 hours of service done each year, went on mission trips, led and spoke her story at retreats, went to every football game dressed UP in the theme, and still had time to get a high GPA.

Brianna Gavin

She was KILLING it.

In the mornings before school started, she sat in her car for five minutes by herself to separate her home life from her school life. She listened to "One Man Can Change The World" by Big Sean and sang the words to herself as she began to put on a mask for the day.

Brianna Gavin

She was sometimes a clown. She'd walk around the hallways and go to class while eating boxes of cereal and constantly made jokes about ANYTHING going on. One thing you could always count on her for was authenticity and hope.

Brianna Gavin

Even at her job teaching kids how to swim, the second she came out in her brightly colored swimsuit, her kids were already there and ready to say hi to her. Kids would make her cards and families constantly asked her to babysit and told her stories of how much their kids loved her.

One day during school, she was awarded with a scholarship called "You Can Count On Me", given to her because of how reliable, dependable, and important she was to all those around her. She remembered the words that were said about her when she received the scholarship and those were the driving force for her to continue helping others and being there for herself.

But then came college. And with the goodbye to all of her friends, family, and popular school life also came the goodbye to herself.

Brianna Gavin

She now became something she didn't want to be anymore. She stayed in her room, struggled extensively with mental illness, and looked in the mirror without knowing what she was looking at. She didn't have many friends and she felt alone most of the time.

With change and loss, she lost herself. She, in a sense, died as soon as her relationships with those close friends and family died. And no matter how hard she tries, she will never be the happy, energetic, inspiring, motivational, giving, faithful, loving person she once was.

The truth she has to share...she is gone.

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