Guest Post by Patrick Shea. Patrick graduated from high school in 2018 and is a rising freshman at Providence College.
Heading into the college process can be kind of stressful, especially piling it on top of school. It just kind of hangs over your head like a cloud and adds just a little bit to the strain of school. If I have one piece of advice regarding this, it’s to get a head start. A few of my close friends just waited it out, and they were very stressed come January.
One way to make this a bit easier on yourself is to apply early to schools. Not only do you find out about a school sooner than everyone else, you also do all of the work at the beginning of the school year, when none of the teachers are doing anything. I applied early to over half of the schools that I applied to, and it was a huge relief knowing before Christmas break that I was into a few schools. During this first semester, the admissions counselors will be a lot easier to reach; they won’t be dealing with nearly the same amount of students as they will second semester. This will make it way easier to reach them and ask questions if you need, and it will give them more time to help you out. And lastly, you have a slightly better chance of getting in! Applying early to a school will show that school that you have an interest in going there, so they’ll be more likely to let you in.
Another way to make the whole process easier is to pick common essay topics. Essays are the single most time consuming aspect of the college application process, and are infamous for being the hardest, but they don’t have to be. If you’re applying to five different schools, you don’t want to write a different set of essays for each school, that’s insane. Find common ground between the prompts, so you can write essays that you can use for multiple schools. My personal record is using one essay to answer a prompt from 4 different schools. This may be tough at first, having to think of something that covers different questions, but it will save you so much time and energy. It will also help you write a stronger essay, because you’ll be focusing on fewer topics. Really if you find a topic that you’re particularly passionate about, then it won’t be hard to make it work for other prompts.
After your essays are finished, it will feel like you’re done with school; but trust me in that you want to make sure you keep your grades up. Your grades senior year could be the difference between getting a huge scholarship and getting nothing for your freshman year. After a few months of normal school, then the decisions will start to roll in, which is one of the toughest times of the year. It will be kind of weird, with some of your classmates having different experiences and responses from colleges. Focusing on what you want is really important during this time, but in the end, trust your gut, and the feelings of those that know you best.
Everyone makes their decision in a different way; sometimes a person will know the second they set foot on campus, others may need to think long and hard. No matter in what fashion, the decision will come, and you will make a good one. I put down my deposit at the beginning of April, but I think I had made my decision in February, on a campus visit, during a hockey game. You will know when a place is right for you, and you’ll make a great choice in the end.
Nicole has dedicated the entirety of her 20 year career to encouraging higher education opportunities. After graduating from Vanderbilt, she worked in her alma mater’s admissions office. The, she completed her PhD in Counseling so she could bring that expertise into college counseling. Nicole partnered with her former Vanderbilt colleague, Fitz Totten, to form Find The Right College and support their mission to make trustworthy advising more accessible.