There is a looming shadow that hovers over all high school students. It’s big, scary, and it’s going to end up costing a lot of money. College is what makes us fear for our future. But, this boogeyman that we’re all afraid of might be nothing more than a trick of the light. After all, there really is nothing to fear when it comes to college. The process is easier than it looks, and the deadlines are only a threat to people who don’t pay attention to them. Let’s go over the process and appease any of the fears you may have.
When looking at colleges, there are some questions you should ask yourself. “What size college are you looking for? What courses are you interested in? What is the general personality of the school?” One student can look for wildly different things than another. For myself, I had no idea of what college I was looking for. Looking around and asking other students about what they were looking for, I spoke to student Joey Allen. He said, “I want a college with a good enough student body to support me and my ambitions for the future.” Jake Lemons was looking for something completely different. Instead of support, he wanted “ a college that really values academics… I want something that will challenge me.”
After finding a few colleges you like, you should put a list together to help keep track of due dates and deadlines. The school provides every student with a Naviance account that takes the large list and puts it into one condensed space that reminds you of deadlines and how specific schools take their applications. The key part of Naviance is being able to keep those deadlines within view and being being clear about which colleges you’re looking at. Naviance is also used by the teachers and counselors to see what colleges you’re interested in and what they can do to help you. After all, teachers and counselors aren’t looking to hinder you; they want to help the best they can.
The next part of the process might seem a bit difficult, but much like the other parts of the process, it isn’t. Asking teachers for recommendation letters is an essential part of the process. The goal should be to ask a teacher that you both like and knows you well. A good relationship with your favorite teacher and one solid year with him or her can guarantee that he or she will write the best letter that you can send out. Having a good letter in your arsenal can help sway the college to take more interest in who you are and how you learn. The biggest part is showing how well you perform academically, in sports, or in your life outside of school.
Now, depending on what colleges you’re thinking about applying to, you might want to sign up for the Common App. You might have heard of the Common App before. It’s an online application form that aspiring applicants can use to apply to many colleges across America and even some other countries as well. On this website, you can put down your information and answer questions that will help colleges see what you have to offer. These questions also help colleges look at your academic life and experiences outside of school. Along with these questions, there is a major step that many people are scared of. The Common App asks you to write your college essay.
The college essay is one of the bigger parts of applying that everyone likes to complain about. They talk about how difficult it is to pick a question, how they don’t know what they’re going to write about, or even how stressed they are because of the quality of their essay. People’s personal complaints about the way they do things and what they can and can’t do shouldn’t stress you out. The essay is a platform for you, the applicant, to express yourself and to wow the college with things that couldn’t be stated in the previous questions. This is where you can shine and show your individuality and personality to the college and wow them with the real you. The Common App provides you with questions about yourself that you can answer, or you could choose the open ended question that focuses on a topic of your choosing. The college essay should be the easiest part–not because, of how simple it is, or how a person goes about doing it–but because you are writing about the easiest topic: You are simply writing about yourself!
During these steps, you should also consider when you want to take the SATs or the ACTs. The Scholastic Assessment Test, or the SATs, are the colleges way of seeing how much information you obtained and what knowledge you can bring to college. It also gives them a comprehensive score that they can use to get a better sense of you as a student. The SATs have three basic sections and an extra fourth section that costs a bit more to complete. The first is the reading portion of the SATs, the writing portion, and then there is the math portion. The last section is the essay and prompt. For this section, the writers of the test give you an excerpt from a piece of literature and a prompt for you to answer. I would suggest that you read the question first, then then mark up the passage thoroughly for quotes to use and pieces that you could use for your answer. Although, I would suggest taking the SAT or ACT, many schools don’t require these tests.
Keep in mind, for many of these parts, there are fees that follow them. The SATs, sending the transcript, and the actual application all cost money–not to mention the actual tuition fees, room and board, and the other essential that you have to pay for in college. One of the most important parts of the process is to complete the FAFSA, or the the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is used to cut costs and to find where you can get assistance.
The last part of the process is to collect all your pieces, from the essay to the transcript, and to send them in to the college you wish to apply to. I highly suggest keeping in contact with your counselor since He or she can help keep this process straight in your head and help you through the more difficult situations. They are also essential in the last part of the process as you have to speak to them and give them permission to send your transcript. It is also critical that you contact College Board. They are the people that run the SATs and they have your scores held there. It’s your job as the applicant to contact them and inform them of the schools you are applying to.
Applying to college shouldn’t be stressful, and it shouldn’t create fear. It’s a lot to do, but there isn’t anything a single person can’t handle. If it does become too stressful, or too much for you to handle, just remember that you have people that can help you and people that want the best for you. Keep your head held high and remember that if you give your best, you can make it into your dream college.