Top 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying to College

The college application process seems extremely daunting. But, it is important to remember that everyone experiences this stressful time and you will get through it! Whether you are a stressed-out student preparing to apply to college or the concerned parent of said stressed-out student, these 7 tips should ease some of your worries and provide guidance through the process.

1. Plan Ahead
The summer before senior year is your best friend. Try to get as much done as you can during this school-free block of two and a half months! If you are able to get your Common Application essay and some supplemental essays done over the summer, you will be golden. Trust me…you will thank me when the beginning of senior year rolls around. The fall of senior year is a very busy time with college interviews and applications compounded with the typical grind of school work and extra-curricular activities.

2. Utilize your resources
Believe it or not, your high school guidance counselors and college counselors know what they are talking about. As much as you may want to roll your eyes at their advice, they have done this before and are very knowledgeable about the college process, so listen to what they have to say! They have a wealth of information including admissions statistics from prior years. Counselors will help you set realistic goals in order to be successful in your application process. Parents—schedule a meeting with your child’s counselor to remain in the loop!

3. Showing interest is important
Visit the schools that you thinking of applying to and be sure to check in at the admissions offices. This ensures that the schools have a record that you were there. While on campus, try to sit in on a class that interests you or schedule an interview. Email or try to meet with your regional admissions counselor. This shows that you are both proactive and eager to learn more about the college. Although these steps may seem tedious, they actually can make a significant impact. Many schools track interest as part of their evaluation of your application, so be sure not to skip this step!

4. Only apply to schools where you will actually be happy
I’m sure you all have heard about the importance of applying to a range of schools: reach schools, target schools, and safety schools. I know how it is easy to discount safety schools as irrelevant items on your list because they may seem like a silly precaution. It is tempting to adopt a “whatever” attitude as you compile a list of safety schools. Unfortunately, admissions offices are often unpredictable and it is important to be prepared for any outcome. While considering schools, ask yourself: “If I am only accepted into this college, will I be happy here?”

5. Ignore College Rankings
It is natural to become obsessed with tracking the rankings of your top schools online and in annually-published college ranking books. But, it is important to remember why you want to go to college. Try not to dwell on how others view your favorite schools. Instead, focus on the aspects that are important to you about the colleges in which you choose to apply. As you visit schools, you will find that some just seem to “fit.” This feeling often emerges regardless of a school’s prestige—try not to underestimate its importance in your decision-making process.

6. You don’t need to have your entire life planned out
I repeat…you do not need to know what you want to do with your life! It is completely normal to apply to schools without knowing what you want to major in or what field you eventually want to work in. Even if you think you might have clear idea of what you want to do, this doesn’t have to be the end-all-be-all. Remember that you are allowed to change your mind!

7. Everything will work out in the end
Although this process may make you want to pull your hair out and the occasional mental breakdown is inevitable, it is important to take a deep breath and remember that everything is going to be okay. Don’t drive yourself crazy. Take a break once in a while. Go see a movie or get ice cream with your friends. I know it seems easy for me to say this because I am finished with this process, but I promise that you will survive.


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Author: Amelia Fogg

Amelia just finished her freshman year at Colgate University and has lived in Ridgewood for her entire life. She is very excited to contribute to TipsfromTown by providing some insight into the college process and experience!