Everyone talks of the horrors of the college application process. You spend the first half of senior year writing more essays than you have in all four years of high school combined. The second half of your year is spent having your patience and your sanity tested while playing the waiting game. So, how can you get from the middle of the, lets be honest, cruddy college process to the blissful honeymoon stage with your dream school. Well, after my disaster of a college search, I'm here to offer a little unsolicited advice.
1. Open Your Ears
When you become a senior, almost any conversation shifts from ‘How are you?” to “What colleges are you considering?” faster than you can say ACT. But before you conceal an eye roll and tune them out, take a moment to think. Yes, you have almost 12 months before you pack up and head off to a new school, but it is less than 6 months before the regular decision deadline. So perk up your ears and listen to what they have to say, wether it be advice or school selections, because they’ve been through this and you haven’t… yet.
2. Make A List
There are 1,845 colleges and universities in the U.S. Now unless you have a photographic memory, I bet you can't even name a fraction of those schools. So make a list of the colleges you've dreamed about, the ones that have piqued your interest, and even the ones you've only heard mentioned at one of the aforementioned ‘lectures’. This list, no matter how tedious it seems, will come in handy through the coming months to keep your favorites and your not so favorites straight.
3. Do Your Research
Now its time to narrow down that monster of a list, and there are plenty of resources available for just that purpose. Other than the school’s direct website (which I find to more helpful to current students than potential ones), there are books (I recommend the Princeton Review’s 380 Best Colleges), and websites such as youvisit.com (which allows you to take virtual tours of hundreds of college campus’s). As you research, take notes and move colleges up, down, or off your list.
4. Visit Potential Campuses
From the first minute you meet a person, you make a first impression about them based on how you feel about them. It’s the same way with college campuses. During those visits, don't forget to keep taking notes no matter how dorky it may feel. Each campus tour is so full of information, you will not be able to remember it all. And after taking ten of them, you won't even be able to keep them all straight let alone remember which has more dining halls.
5. Apply, Apply, Apply
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, consider any school a shoo-in. Test scores from previous years, promises from coaches, or acceptance rates mean nothing in the scheme of things. In all reality the whole process is a crap-shoot. So power through the extra essays and apply to a multitude of schools.
6. Make Note of Your New Passwords and Usernames
It sounds silly, but make a list of all your usernames and passwords for all the school portals. I can't even count the number of times I had to reset mine on both my fingers and toes combined. Just save yourself the trouble and write them down.
7. Visit Accepted Campuses
This is it. You know your options and now its decision time. I highly suggest visiting your top two or three campus’s if you are torn. This is where you will be living for the next four years, so you want to make sure it feels right. It may be an amazing school, but it may not be the right fit for you and that can become blatantly apparent during a final visit or an admitted student weekend.
8. Follow Your Gut
When you know you know. Follow your gut to a school, not your friends, family, or significant others. Because in the end, it’s your school, not anyone else’s. Also, leaving home may be terrifying, but its a lot easier to go away and transfer closer to home, than to stay home and wish you went away. So good luck and don't let yourself get too overwhelmed!