Well, it is over. The process that started more than one year ago has definitively come to a close. And oh man oh man what a process it was.
And of course, I’m talking about getting my license. (JK that took like 2+ years lol.)
I’m talking about the college application process.
It’s been 3 weeks since I started college, (give or take, because it feels like forever ago), but sometimes it feels like I'm still applying to college. But it’s been a year, over a year, since this entire college process started, way back in the summer before senior year when I started to write all those goddamn essays.
So… if you’re reading this you already know I committed to Rutgers. And… sigh. I have mixed feelings. Which I will dissect in this highly personal and angsty post that I completely don’t fault you for not wanting to read. So consider yourself warned and read at your own risk. No flames, please.
Okay, let’s start with the obvious: why did I commit to Rutgers? Let’s break it down. (Because I am a fan of breaking stuff down.)
You’ve submitted all of your letters of recommendation, written all of your essays, and professed your love to no end for a particular college. And you’ve pressed the maroon submit button on Common App and think it’s all over.
But if colleges really want to make sure you’re more than just a robot that gets straight-As and near-perfect SAT scores, they usually request an interview, or highly recommend that you request one.
And now you actually have to make sure you have a personality and that you don’t screw up a thirty-minute conversation enough that they stop caring about your grades and start wondering how you even function as a human being in this society.
The prospect of interviews can be daunting, but let’s assuage some of those fears by going through every type of interview and making sure you’re prepared for each one.
A week or so ago, I got a postcard in the mail from the College of William and Mary, a school I had decided to apply to a couple hours before their Common App deadline (we all have that one school). On the postcard, there was a message. Word for word, it said, “We expect to send you good news this spring”. (Of course, it had a bunch of other random stuff too, but that was the important part.) And at the bottom was a nice handwritten message from an admissions counselor saying “Great essays! Hope to see you around campus in the fall!”
Not gonna lie, it took me entirely too long to figure out that the postcard was supposed to be their version of a “likely letter” and that I was supposed to be excited I got accepted.
Guess what, guys? I finally finished my college apps!! (Yayyyyyy).
After six arduous months of drafting essays, writing activity descriptions, and getting those letters of recommendation in time, it is all finally over. I’ve pressed submit on my final application in the Common App and wrote my last scholarship essay. (Okay, so technically I still have interviews and whatnot left, but those barely count.)
But now that the process is over, I realize that there were quite a lot of things that I wasn’t expecting or didn’t take into account when first starting to plan out my college application process. So in order to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I did, here are the things I wish I knew before I applied to college.
For the past three-ish weeks, colleges have just been breaking hearts left and right. I was recently one of those broken hearts (thanks, Princeton). But out of the hundreds of thousands of students that applied early action or early decision (more on the early application process here), only a fraction of each applicant pool was offered a spot in next year’s incoming class, the class of 2022 - that coveted acceptance. The rest (like you and me) were either rejected outright (aww, I'm sorry, that sucks), or got this weird email saying you were not rejected, but not accepted either, and are hanging out in this limbo of “deferred applicants”.
But what exactly does it mean to get deferred in the initial round of applications? What should you do next to optimize your chances of being accepted in the regular decision round? And should you give up on life and move to Slovakia to raise a herd of goats?
(The answer to that last one is no.)
A lot of you know that college is expensive. That’s no secret. With tuitions approaching 70k for some private universities, we’re all struggling to find ways to make that cost a little cheaper - whether it be through loans or scholarships.
But a lot of people forget that the process of applying to college itself, the part where you write essays baring your souls and work on getting the best grades and standardized test scores, costs so much too. The average application fee cost is almost $38, and private and elite schools have even higher fees (Stanford’s is $90!). And the application fee is only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t forget about the amount of money it takes to send your test scores (which you can read more about here) or to send your CSS profile for financial aid eligibility (yeah, it costs money to ask for money).
Altogether, each college can cost around $100 to apply, and if you’re applying to 10 colleges, that’s already $1000. Yup, that’s expensive.
We’ve all been there. (Or at least, most of us will be eventually.) Awkwardly standing there, clutching whatever college information pamphlets they handed out at the beginning of the information session and tour, riding out the awkward silence when your tour guide asks “Do you guys have any questions?” at the end of every stop. And you know you have a question. Everyone does. But you never ask.
Well, grow a pair and ask! This might be the only opportunity you have to interact with current students and take their experiences and perspectives about the university into consideration, both in deciding to apply and to attend.
Everyone knows that after an interview with an admissions counselor, you have to send a thank-you note, email or snail-mail. (And if you didn’t know, well, there you go, now you know.) But what about beyond that? Is it okay to email them with general questions you have about the college admissions process? What about if you just want to say hi and you’re excited about the university? Or if you have any questions regarding visiting or interviewing or the campus layout?
Yes. The answer is yes.
Remember, a college admissions officer is there for the students. They will always answer your questions and if they can’t, they’ll direct you to someone who can. Their entire job is to both attract students to their university and choose who will become the next members of the incoming class.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about communication.
Every math, biology, or US history course is taught differently in each and every school throughout the United States. Which makes it almost impossible to compare the caliber of these subjects and the caliber of these students, especially when trying to make decisions on college admissions.
For that reason, an excellent indicator of mastery in a specific subject is an SAT Subject Test. It allows a standardized measure of achievement across the country and can be a valuable indicator of academic ability, in a way the normal SAT or ACT are not.
So to help navigate the ins and outs of this suite of assessments, here’s a quick and comprehensive guide to all things SAT Subject Test.