7 tips for future college applicants


Mehul Shrivastava, Managing Editor

The college application process is a hefty one. As someone who just submitted their first round of applications, I can tell you my experience was far from perfect, but I can also say that pressing the “Submit” button on my last application was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.

On an even more important note, I have a list of things I need to continue to do during my second round of applications, and an even longer list of what I need to change to make it easier for myself.

To future college applicants, here are some things to keep in mind while going through the process.

1. Keep yourself organized with a spreadsheet.

A single college application has a number of components coming from different people. A teacher submits a recommendation later, your guidance counselor submits a transcript, you turn in a college essay, and the list goes on. Keep a spreadsheet with a tab for other people’s work (e.g. recommendations submitted), one for how many supplements you’ve completed, one for college interview dates, and so on.

Additionally, I found that keeping a statistics spreadsheet with the important characteristics of all my schools has been a life-saver. Numbers like average GPA and SAT scores for accepted students are definitely helpful, but including numbers like school size, student-teacher ratio, and even food and dorm ratings can really help you compare your schools.

2. Don’t save all your writing requirements until the weekend before applications are due.

This is a mistake I made. Doing all your supplements at short is definitely doable, but will leave you unbelievably burned out by the end. Spacing out the work for applications is key; it will ensure better writing and take away some stress.

Remember that a lot of schools that take supplemental essays value them more than the personal statement because the quality of your supplement reflects your interest in the school. Do your best work on your supplements, especially for your top schools!

3. Make sure your essay is important to you.

The college essay is one of the more important aspects of your application, so you want it to be good. However, if you write about a topic that is solely meant to impress others, it will lack the feeling and personal touch the essay requires. Write about a topic you want to write about, something that engages you. The essay will end up feeling more like a meaningful piece of you, which is what colleges want to see. The essay is the one part of the application you can be completely creative with. There are no boundaries holding you back besides a word count, so have fun with it.

4. Don’t feel like you need to have your major completely figured out while applying.

Having a direction is good enough. If you are not sure what exactly you want to study, you are not doing anything wrong. Figuring out the rest of your life before you finish grade school is admirable, but not expected. If you are unsure about your specific subject, apply to a broad major in the field you are interested in. College has opportunities for exploration and discovery, so you will have time to find what you are passionate about. Also, most major acceptances are not binding. Within a general field, many colleges will not evaluate you differently based on the specific major your pick. It’s hardly the least important part of your application.

5. Establish a good relationship with your guidance counselor.

Out of everyone helping you with the process, chances are your guidance counselor will have the best advice for you. The guidance department assists hundreds of students to college every year, so it is fair to say they have a pretty good idea of how to approach applications. Applying to college cannot be done alone, so know that you have a resource in the building who is available to help and guide you.

6. Have a good balance of fit schools, safeties, and reaches.

Reach, safety, and fit schools are all important to keep on your college list. There is merit in both challenging yourself and sticking to your comfort zone. Doing too much of one, however, can be harmful. Too many reach schools can lead to limited options when you actually make a decision and commit to a school. Too many fits and safeties can make you regret taking it too easy. Choose a variety of colleges that fall into all categories.

7. Keep your options open.

I started with a fixed mindset that I wanted to go to a large college strictly in or around a major city. However, after going to some visits and seeing some other types of schools, about a third of the colleges on my list are small, and in or around a town. Some people are less flexible than others in this matter, but make sure you explore all your options before you make a final decision. You never know where you might end up going.

Overall, make sure you stay organized and on top of things during the entire process. Applying to college may be overwhelming and stressful, having everything planned out with the tips above will help make it all a little bit easier.