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Applying to College? Keep These Five Things in Mind

Written by Emily Laycock, Converge multimedia journalism intern and Senior at Mill Creek High School

When you or your child are applying to college, it can bring a lot of pressure, overthinking or self-doubt. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to reflect, focus on your strengths and envision your future. That’s why it’s so important to take a deep breath, get organized and approach your college application journey with a clear mindset.

After all, there is so much to gain and learn about yourself through the experience, so be confident and be yourself! Check out these five helpful tips to guide you throughout the process.

No Two Students are the Same

This goes without saying, but each student is unique and thus, your needs and desires during the college admissions process will differ from your peers. However, things such as class rank and very low acceptance rates at some schools have undoubtedly made feelings of comparison hard to deny. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the race to the finish line and feel like you are falling behind because you are not meeting checkpoints at the pace of those around you.

So, it is crucial to give yourself grace and understand that each person’s journey is different, whether that means taking a step back from a club or applying to a school that is less prestigious, but a better fit for your future.

Talk About Finances

Conversations about finances are awkward in any stage and situation of life, but are imperative to address in the beginning stages of the admissions process. The financial burden of college is a growing epidemic in the U.S., felt by students and parents alike. In 2021, reported that the average student owes $36,510 in student loans, which has far-reaching negative impacts on graduates’ lives post-college.

As a student, don’t be afraid to initiate discussions with your family about how your education will be paid for, what colleges are financially reasonable and viable solutions to alleviate the stress of this massive upcoming expense.

Not Knowing is Okay

There is so much pressure placed on seniors to have a roadmap of their entire future planned out, from where you want to spend your next four years to deciding on a field of study that will ultimately lead to your career path. Thus, it is understandable to not have it all figured out just yet.

Decisions of this magnitude need to be carefully pondered, which may mean going into college undecided or attending a less desirable college until you’re certain of your major. It is ok to not know the answers to these questions and actively seek them out before, during and after college. Take advantage of internships, clubs and other student-based programs designed to help you in this process.

Your SAT Score Can Matter, But It’s Not the Most Important Part of Your Application

It could be argued that no other part of the admissions process is as synonymous with the experience as the SAT. However, this does not mean it is the end-all be-all. Yes, do keep in mind the target score of the schools you are applying to, but do not let getting a “perfect” score consume your experience. The SAT is only one component of your application.

Additionally, countless admissions officers have refuted the perception of its importance, including Marilyn McGrath, former director of admissions at Harvard, who stated: “Generally speaking, the SAT is not very important.”

Soak in the Experience – It’s a Great Time for Self-Reflection

Never in life thus far have you had to divulge so much of who you are in such little time and space. Components of the college application such as the essays force you to reflect and identify the formative moments in your life, and how they have shaped you into the person you are today. The decision process of picking a university and major allows you to explore autonomous decision making, which requires self-exploration and awareness.

Therefore, this is a great time to explore who you are and how to present yourself moving forward. It is important during the chaos to enjoy where you are and where you are headed.