Sure, school just started a few weeks ago, but if you’re a junior or senior and are planning on going to college, you’ll want to get started with the process early. Here are some steps and tips that helped me out.
1. Start the process early.
Take the PSAT or the PLAN test to practice for the SAT or ACT. Provide an email address so that colleges can contact you. This is a good way to hear from a lot of institutions that you may have never heard of before. You can always unsubscribe from the email service.
2. Make a checklist. I know it seems cheesy, but there are so many components to an application, and you cannot afford to forget anything.
3. Be the responsible one. You are the one who will be going to college, so take charge of the process. Ask for letters of recommendation with plenty of time to spare, because your life is not the priority of others, even if they care about you. Follow up with counselors and references to make sure they sent in their parts of your application. Thank them afterwards.
4. Remind your parents to do their taxes early. This will help you make sure you are not scrambling for information or time as you try to complete the FAFSA and the CSS Profile for financial aid. The deadlines come up sooner than you may think.
5. Plan time for essays. When browsing applications, make sure to check if the institution wants a supplement, and if the supplement involves additional essays. Some of the supplement essays are harder to answer than the general application prompts.
6. Have someone proofread your essays. This will make your writing better, clarify what you are trying to say and hopefully strengthen your chances of being admitted.
7. Talk to people. You never know who you might find who went to a college you are thinking about applying to, or have been admitted to. They can provide additional insight into what it was like to go there, the atmosphere, the location, etc.
8. Be as prepared as possible for interviews. It is important to know why you are specifically interested in a school you have an interview with. Visit the website, and write down majors, programs and statistics that interest you. Make a list of your accomplishments and activities as well. The main purpose of the interview is for the college to get to know you better. If your interview is by phone, have both these lists nearby so you don’t leave anything out. If it is by Skype or in person, review these lists beforehand.
9. Think about where you want to live.
Location can be an important factor. Institutions in big cities may have more access to internships and community organizations. Specific programs are offered in specific locations as well. For example, Washington State University and the University of Wyoming have great agriculture programs because the agriculture and ranching business is extensive in the surrounding areas. Also think about your reaction to weather. If you hate rain and get depressed in the winter time, don’t apply to places with wet and gray weather. You want to make your future education enjoyable.
10. Keep finances in mind. Do a self-assessment: Based on your grades, effort in school, community involvement and the strength of your application, what is your chance of getting a good amount of scholarship money from colleges you will apply to? Based on your family income and other information you provide for FAFSA and the CSS Profile, what is your chance of getting federal financial aid? Keep these factors in mind when selecting schools to apply to, but don’t let them be the overriding factors. If you really want to apply somewhere, do it.
11. Apply to more than one institution. It’s a good idea to apply to more than one place, just in case you don’t make it into the college of your dreams. You never know what might happen. However, you don’t want to apply to too many colleges either. That takes up lots of time, and the application fees can get expensive.
• Georgia Gempler graduated from Davis High School in June. She is spending a year in Bolivia on a Rotary Club exchange program before heading to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.