It was Valentine’s Day, and I was clutching (what remained of) a carnation I received from one of my friends that day. It was time for my daily Reddit check, just a casual scroll up and down the memes and funny stories on my feed.
But across the top of my Reddit feed was a bright orange banner proclaiming “Deadly School Shooting in Florida, Several Injured.”
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.
Good riddance 2017 and helloooo 2018!
Although I can’t say 2017 was a terrible year (some good stuff did happen), we enter 2018 with the hope that this year, finally, will be our year. And yes, yes, we say that every year, but do not fear, this year will actually be your year.
But around this time, when one week into January you are starting to realize your resolution of going to the gym every other day and reading a new book every week is just not gonna happen, don’t feel hopeless. It’s not you, (it’s me). But no, all jokes aside, do not blame yourself for the chronic inability to keep up with New Year’s Resolutions, it happens to the best of us.
Instead, after a week of inevitably failed resolutions, it’s time to revisit those goals of yours for 2018 and set some SMART goals. And these should have a significantly higher success rate than that goal to stop procrastinating you set for yourself every single year.
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.
Everyone tells us that our summers during high school are important. Especially after sophomore and junior year. You finally have the time to devote to something, whether that be an internship, a job, or a passion project (like this blog!). Now, even I have already told you this (go read this) but it’s worth a reiteration.
Even though whatever you do in those summers is undoubtedly of value and helps your growth as a person and as a college applicant, there are a few summer programs that are almost like a neon sign screaming “Look here! This one’s the real deal!” These are ones that mark you as one of the best in the nation at its respective focus and are opportunities not to be passed up.
In fact, a lot of the applications for these summer programs are opening around this time (I know, it feels like summer just ended, but the next one will be here sooner than you know). So I encourage you to apply, even if you think you don’t have a chance - you never know.
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.
Everyone has had both good and terrible experiences with College Confidential, myself included. Sometimes it had great and valuable information that you’re thankful you stumbled upon, and other times you’re almost crying because you’re reading the Chance Me thread and realizing you’re never getting into Princeton (not speaking from personal experience).
But sometimes you have to reel yourself in and realize that no matter how all-knowing and deity-like College Confidential and its posters may seem, it’s just another college forum on the internet, where you never know whether what people are saying is real or not.
And for that I say, take College Confidential with a grain of salt.