Welcome back to the second part of the College Process Trilogy. Now that you’ve got your colleges ranked (and probably a top school in mind), it’s time to get accepted!
PREPARING. As mentioned previously, it’s never too soon to start the college process! Admissions people at colleges will weigh your extracurriculars, grades, volunteer experiences, and leadership abilities when you apply, so it’s best if you can say you’ve portrayed all your great qualities for as long as possible. It shows persistence to be active in extracurriculars since your freshman or sophomore year – plus that experience could open up volunteering opportunities and a route to leadership within the clubs or teams you’re a part of. And remember that even your freshman year counts towards your cumulative GPA. However, with that in mind, do not worry. If that is already far in the past, do not fear! Remember our rule: Do not panic, remember that it will be okay, and you just have to keep trying. It’s never too soon, but it’s never too late. I started picking my way through this process early on, but I have friends who heard of the ACT and SAT for the first time in their sophomore year and didn’t take it until halfway through their senior year. I have friends who didn’t realize their early years of high school counted towards their GPA. I have friends who simply didn’t know they wanted to go to college at all until well into their senior years and had made no preparations of any sort. It’s all okay! In the end, everything worked out for everyone. And it’ll work out for you! Start making your preparations now. Here’s how:
- Join an extracurricular. Sports teams, Debate Team, Art Club, Chess Club, the school play, the school newspaper, Youth Group, choir, or a Robotics group. Whatever interests you, do it. In fact, in many schools it’s not as hard as you’d think to create your own extracurricular, like a book club or a group that discusses politics and current events, if nothing else catches your fancy.
- Do volunteer work. Donate blood, mow a neighbor’s lawn, help someone you know organize a fundraiser, lend a hand at a sporting event selling concessions, babysit free of charge, or work with your church on a charity project. Just be active in your community. And although it does look good on college and scholarship applications, it’s also extremely important to the world and your own character to continue doing this throughout your life.
- Work on your grades! Boost that GPA with advanced and weighted classes and study! This can be really difficult – especially as a freshman, having to remind yourself that your grades will matter in a few years or as a senior facing the dreaded senioritis (it hurts. It hurts baaad.) But it pays off. Trust me.
- Take the ACT/SAT. This might depend on the schools you want to apply to or where you live (in Missouri, the ACT is more popular). I have heard from people who have taken both that each of the two are difficult in different ways – basically, the SAT relies more on critical thinking and how you find your solutions than the ACT does. So I’ve been told. There are countless resources out there to help you prepare for these, but at the end of the day, it’s important to remember: You are not a number. Standardized tests do not measure anything but how you choose to fill in bubbles. Colleges aren’t focused on finding the best test-takers, they want well-rounded, diverse individuals who can bring something to their institution.
- Write your essays! Read the prompts carefully. Stick to the word count given. Know your audience. Inject your personality. Don’t be afraid to brag about yourself. Have friends and family proofread and give suggestions. Do more drafts. Make sure you’ve answered the full prompt. Rewrite portions if you feel you need to. Just keep working on them. They’ll be great.
- Have your teachers write theirs. Letters of recommendation are pretty important. I asked my favorite teachers because they taught my favorite classes and therefore have seen the best work out of me. A few tips: don’t just pick from teachers – there are coaches and extracurricular moderators and even school administrators to choose from (other prominent members of your community who know you well and can vouch for your awesomeness can be good choices, but don’t ask your loving mother to write one for you). Also, I would try to get as many as possible. If the school requires two, then send them three. If you can get four strong letters, then send them all! You can’t have enough people bragging on you. Give these people plenty of time to write up something great and make sure to give them all the information you’d like them to include (such as a list of all of your extracurriculars).
- Check to make sure your school does not require anything else. Some want a resume covering all of your extracurriculars and community service. Make sure everything looks neat, polished, and professional. Also, check to see if there are any scholarships you need to apply to at this point. Many scholarships are based on your admission application, but many are available for separate application later on. Do what you need to do. Then double check everything.
You’re ready to go.
APPLYING As far as I know, almost all applications can be done online. Beware: lots of tedious information is required. This is a time consuming, boring step. However, after all of that preparation, it really isn’t that difficult. Apply to as many as you wish. One tip: apply to 2 “out-of-reach” schools (like ivy leagues), 3 you’re pretty sure you could be accepted to, and 1 back-up that is a shoo-in. (Or don’t. This seems like a great idea, but I only applied to my top two and was accepted to both, so it worked out fine. I still recommend having that safety net if possible.)
WAITING Once you’ve applied, you have just one final thing to do: Wait…without panicking. Whatever you do, just don’t worry. I applied and was in a weirdly confident haze. I had no doubts in my mind that I would be accepted. After a week of waiting, I began to worry. And panicking. It was about a month before I heard back at all from either school I applied to. Turns out, there was nothing worry about. So just save yourself the stress and do not worry. It’s easier said than done, I know. But recognize that it’s out of your hands. What’s done is done and you can change nothing. You did your best. And if it’s bad news, then move on to a new goal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you’ll be fine. Either way.
As you venture further into this process, remember to remain calm and I bid you good luck!
Have you already finished this whole process? Have two cents to add? Are you still somewhere within this process and hoping for more information? Please share your wisdom, insight, questions, and concerns in the comments below! Let’s start a conversation!
Thanks for reading!