Applying to College: A How To Guide

Devyn Di Meola, Editor

If you are a senior, there is a great chance you are already feeling the stress and anxiety of college application season. Although the college admissions process can be extremely intimidating and nerve-racking, there is a logical process to go about applying to colleges that actually begins the moment you enter your junior year.

Eleventh grade is the key year to your high school experience. Students should begin the extensive, demanding admission process by simply considering where they want to attend college. What do you want to do for a living? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Research various schools and majors constantly and devise a mental list of universities you can envision yourself attending.

One of the most crucial steps toward applying for college is having a financial conversation with your parents. Guidance counselor Ms. Calvanico stresses that it is imperative that families communicate and recognize what they can reasonably afford. Otherwise, a student may become infatuated with the idea of a certain school that is realistically out of his or her price range. However, one should not allow the sticker price of a college to completely discourage them, being that this initial cost does not include any financial aid, merit scholarships, or grants.

Once you have researched schools and considered the financial aspect of your education, you should have a vague idea of several schools you would like to apply to. While you should have one or two dream schools on your mind, make sure you also keep in mind several middle ground schools, where you would be a good fit, and a couple safety schools that you can fall back on.

Furthermore, take your SATs or ACTs once or twice junior year so that you are not completely overwhelmed as you try to manage school work, college applications, and standardized tests as a senior. As you receive your test scores, consider whether or not you meet the requirements and qualifications of the schools you are concentrating on.

The most significant step toward narrowing down one’s college options is visiting the schools that you match up with on paper. Throughout your junior year and the summer entering twelfth grade, attempt to set aside a substantial amount of time for day trips to possible choices.

“Visit, visit, visit!” emphasized Ms. Calvanico and fellow guidance counselor Mr. Caprio. 

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The guidance department adamantly stresses that this step is an important investment and has the ability to make or break someone’s feelings about a school. While online photographs and virtual tours can be somewhat helpful to gather a general gist of a school, they can be misleading in certain cases. Only a trip to the university will give you an idea about its size, campus, dorms, and overall atmosphere.

As students enter their senior year, they should be polishing up rather than scrambling to fit everything into a few months. Students should be finishing all of their SATs and ACTs by October the latest, making some of their last visits, keeping up an academically strong schedule, beginning to fill in their Common App profile, and managing their time wisely.

Though it may be tempting to procrastinate filling out your applications or to slip into the trend of senioritis, it is crucial that students leave themselves more than enough time to reach deadlines and do not allow their grades to plummet.

When finally filling out applications and writing your admissions essays, it is important to remember to “be yourself,” asserted Mr. Caprio. Avoid trying to appear bombastic. College admissions officers read thousands of essays per day. A simple, authentic essay about an event or situation that has profoundly impacted your life or perspective will get you much further than a lengthy, superficial essay full of challenging vocabulary. Accentuate your unique qualities and admissions officers will truly be able to assess whether or not you are a good fit for their school.