By Elise O’Keefe
Now, I am not claiming to be a college process guru, nor do I have all the insights. My views may change when I attend college in the fall, but after spending months dealing with the stresses of essays and interviews, I do have a few current words of advice:
- Think before you write– During the summer, many rising seniors are told to begin their essays. Although it is great to come into senior year with drafts of numerous supplemental essays (like I did), you should check with your college counselor first. I learned a lot by editing my essays with my college counselor in the fall including techniques, clichés to stay clear of, and structural tips. As I hadn’t consulted with my counselor before I had started writing, I found myself left with tons of pre-written supplements and had to spend double the time editing them. I don’t recommend procrastinating supplements, but if you do want to spend time on the college process in the summer, make sure you are well prepared.
- Schedule as many interviews and information sessions over the summer as you can – Although we don’t know what this summer will look like with COVID-19 if you plan on virtually or going in person to visit a school, try to do this over the summer. It is far harder to schedule interviews during the business of your senior fall, and I found my summer interviews to be quite successful because I had a lot of time to research certain programs of each school. Not every school offers interviews, and some schools only begin offering interviews during the fall and winter, so make sure to research individual schools to see what is applicable.
- Prestige is not everything – Sometimes, you will find a prestigious school that is the perfect fit. However, don’t solely focus on prestige when thinking about which school to attend. “Name schools”, “Top 20 Universities”, or other types of well-regarded schools are not everything, and you can create a successful career without attending that type of school. Look at the environment, programs, majors, clubs, and any other aspects of your school over the US World and News Report rankings. Sometimes it’s hard to not look at the shiny titles of the schools, but my advice is to try your best to ignore that. Personally, I found the school I will be attending after I stopped looking at rankings, and it was a great decision for me.
- Don’t compare yourself to others – Similar to how prestige is not everything, try not to compare yourself to your peers. You don’t need the highest GPA in the grade or the most extracurriculars to be a solid candidate at any school, and comparison will only stress you out more. Additionally, remember that when you see your peers getting into colleges in the fall, they are often getting into their reach schools, so don’t feel bad about yourself if you are seeing people getting into schools with sub 10% acceptance rates.
- Don’t overthink your major – Remember, just because you apply to a certain major, you don’t have to stick to that field for the rest of your life. Many people end up changing their major after entering college, and you should try new fields before settling on a specific path. If you have no idea what major you want to pursue, you can also apply undecided!
Overall, as cheesy as it sounds, you will end up where you are meant to be. Don’t stress out about where that place is too much, because once you commit to a college it is not like you are bound to spend four years there. Just take your best guess of where you feel you will thrive, and you will end up on the path you’re meant to take.