Around this time last year, I was really starting to think about and prepare for applying to college. I thought I had it all figured out too, but the truth is, I really didn't. I wasn't given much guidance throughout the process, and what I was given wasn't too helpful. So, here are 10 things I wish I had known before/while applying for college.
1. The college you think you want to go to initially probably isn't the one you're going to end up at
I thought I knew exactly where I wanted to go before applying to colleges, but the more I looked into different schools, the more I began to realize there may be better opportunities for me somewhere else. Whether it's because of money, distance, or your interests have just changed, that first school probably won't become your new home.
2. You don't have to apply to a school(s) just because everyone else is
Don't feel pressured to apply to certain schools just because that's where everyone else is applying, I know I did. I knew right off the bat I wouldn't be happy at those schools and still felt that pressure. Fight it!
3. Writing an essay with a 350-word maximum is harder than you think
It takes almost no time at all to surpass that limit by a mile once you get your writing groove on. Focus on what you want these schools to know about you most, but keep it short and sweet. These essays are meant to be like summaries, so spend time perfecting them.
4. START PREPARING EARLY
This is the reason I'm putting this out now instead of later in the fall. DO NOT wait until the fall of your senior year to start taking your ACT/SAT or to start looking into colleges. Ideally, this process should begin in the spring of your junior year (maybe even the fall if you really want a head start), but if you're going to push it back, at least begin looking at application deadlines and requirements the summer before your senior year. Some colleges have deadlines pretty early, and you don't want to miss out just because you waited too long to start the process.
5. Don't apply to every school you have a little interest in
Do your research first. I recommend taking college tours before applying (if your timeline permits it) because the way the campus makes you feel can make or break your final decision. The cost of applications adds up quick, and you don't want to be wasting it on school's you definitely won't end up at.
6. Every rejection letters hurts a bit, even if you thought you wouldn't get in anyway
Any kind of rejection, whether it was anticipated or not, is going to make your heart sink a little, but don't stress about it. Trust the process! A rejection letter just means you and your beautiful brain are meant to flourish elsewhere. You will find your place, even if it takes a couple of tries.
7. Don't let all the essays discourage you from applying
I didn't experience this personally, but I know a few people that almost didn't apply to certain schools they actually wanted to go to just because they had to write essays. Don't let this be your deciding factor.
8. Going to community college/a smaller school is totally OK
Funny I say this knowing I'm attending the biggest university in the nation, but at one point I was considering going to either a community college in Florida first or attending a small school in Georgia (only has about 6,000 students). Know that there is nothing wrong with either of those things. Like I said before, just because everyone else is doing one thing doesn't mean you have to as well.
9. Don't apply to a school just because you like their football team
If this is your only reason maybe you should reevaluate why you're going to college… enough said.
10. Trust your gut! There should be no shame in doing what's best for you
If you go to a community college? Good for you! A big university? Awesome! Take a gap year? Congrats! I've said it once and I'll continue to say it again, do NOT choose a school or a particular path just because that's what you're "supposed" to do. You are unique, and everyone has their own course to navigate once you leave high school. College is too expensive for you to end up somewhere you aren't happy. Only you can know what's best for you, so have an open mind and listen to your intuition. You'll be glad you did.