Applying to college is scary for everyone. There isn’t any one way to do it correctly, everyone goes through a different process. But, as a senior who is soon to be graduating, I do have some insight to make this process as painless as possible.

  1. Don’t pick a lot of schools. More is not better! Of course, it’s not a great idea to only apply to one school, but applying to 20+ schools is excessive. Try to find a range of schools that you would really like to go to that are schools you could definitely get into (safety), probably get into (target), and might get into (reach). Having a few of each will allow you to have options without creating an overbearing pressure to get all of your applications done and submitted.
  2. It’s also incredibly important to apply to colleges that you would actually want to go to. The fact that a school won the March Madness tournament last year is not reason enough to attend that school.Try to figure out if you want a big, small, or medium sized school? Do you want to be in a city or smaller college town? Do they have a strong program for your intended major? Do you want a school that’s religiously affiliated? Do you want to rush? Try to ask yourself these questions as you narrow down your college list. Of course, no one factor will make or break your decision to go to a college, but these criterion will at least provide you with a baseline of what you want.
  3. Start working on your applications early. The essay topics for the Common App come out as early as spring of whatever year applications are due. I started my essays over the spring break of my junior year, and had almost all of the main ones done before the school year even started. It was a burden lifted off of my shoulders to know that I didn’t have to stress about writing all of my essays before the deadline, because most of them were already done. The earlier you start, the less college work you will have to do during the first semester of your senior year. This way, you can spend more time focusing on solidifying your grades and making the final push.
  4. Write the essay you want to write, not the one you think colleges want to hear. Cliche, I know, but your essay is your chance to tell colleges about your passions. You want them to see you, and telling them about the 800 extracurriculars you racked up will not do that. Make it more personal, try honing in on one topic or idea instead of cramming in as many as possible. College admissions officers can smell bs from a mile away, so make sure your essay is true to who you are.
  5. Think about applying for scholarships. The period between application season and admissions season is stressful, and there’s really nothing you can do about that. But if you’re looking to continue working on college-esque things, you can look for local and remote scholarships to apply for. Plenty of businesses and foundations around you and even some bigger corporations will have scholarships that you can apply for. Know that no one is going to give you $30,000; and if anyone will, you have a hell of a lot of competition. Look for those small $500-$2,000 scholarships, they’ll add up I promise.
  6. Don’t sweat the rejections. I can almost promise you that you won’t get into every school you apply to. And that’s okay. Any college rejections you get is not a reflection of you as a person, I promise. It hurts a little bit, I can attest to that (s/o to UCLA), but it’s not the end of the world. Just try not to get attached to any one school. Yes, we’ve all had dream schools, but putting all of your time and effort and emotion into that one school is not healthy, and often makes rejection hurt more. You’ll find a great school that fits you well, it’s just a matter of knowing what you want in a school, and knowing what you have to offer to schools.  
  7. Narrow down the acceptances. Yay! You’ve been accepted to college! The first acceptance always feels amazing, and it’s definitely something to be proud of. Once you’ve heard back from all of your schools, figure out which of you accepted schools would be the best fit for you. Visit them if you can, research the smaller details like dorms, athletics, and student life. Make some pro-con lists, talk to some people that go/went to the schools. Choosing a college is an important decision to make, but once you’ve made it, be confident in it.

Overall, the college search is not going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it. There’s a lot that goes into choosing a college, applying to the school, and enrolling, but there’s something to be said about the rewarding feeling of being accepted. Obviously, the process will be different for everyone, but hopefully these tips will get you on your way to applying to college! Good luck!

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