Things I Wish I Knew About the College Application Process

Things I Wish I Knew About the College Application Process

Sara Phillips

Applying to college is the main thing I have always associated with senior year. Being so close to the finish line of high school, you have one last test where all your hard work is to be collected, put on paper, and sent off to complete strangers to be analyzed. It’s undoubtedly stressful and having applied to colleges, here is what I would like to tell the lower classmen:

1) Honestly, everyone is confused. There is not a single person in your class who knows exactly what they are doing. There will be people who have it better together than others, but you are not alone in feeling like you have no clue about what is going on around you. It happens pretty suddenly, and the due dates can sneak up on you. However, no matter how dire the situation may seem at the time, you will send in your applications, and there are plenty of people put in place as a support system and to make sure you’re on the right track. Utilize this resource.


2) You will constantly feel behind no matter how much work you do over the summer. Whether it’s how much of your essay you’ve written or how many schools you have on your list or how much of the common app you’ve completed, you will talk to your classmates and immediately feel like you are behind. If you work at a steady-ish pace throughout the summer and go into school with a general idea of what you want to write about and what schools you want to apply to, you are doing just fine.


3) Reach out to colleges they are actually friendly. If you know there is a college you want to apply to, look on their website and find your local representative to email them. Even if you don’t have really pressing questions, email them anyway, in the hopes that they will remember you. Or better yet, that they take into account demonstrated interest.


4) If possible, visit the campus in person. If you just look up pictures of the campus, obviously the only ones that will come up are scenic views of a fountain, the college’s prettiest building, and happy, smiling students on a summer day. This is the college version of catfishing. If you visit, you will get a feel for not only the campus,. but for the neighborhood around it, for the weather, and the people. Sometimes you can even feel that immediate connection to a college campus just from visiting. I’ve crossed quite a few campuses off my list because they were not what they advertised. Also, this will be a good way to figure out the “vibe” that you want. From visits, I quickly decided I did not want to be in the middle of nowhere or at a huge school.


5) Don’t be afraid to defend your writing to adults. Sometimes they won’t like the tone you write in or the topic you chose to write about and they might think it should be longer or shorter or that you should tell a different story. But the reality is that this is your application and it should be about what is important to you and the way you decide to tell that story should give colleges a glimpse of your personality, not your mom’s. 


6)  Waiting is the worst part. Once you’ve sent in your application all that’s left to do is wait for a yes, a no, or a waitlist. After you click that submit button, it’s out of your hands. I am currently in the waiting process and it is the worst. You can’t stop checking your email and overthinking. My piece of advice is to recognize that you did all you could, and if they say no, it wasn’t meant to be.


Applying to college can be nerve-wracking and stressful. and it means coming to terms with the fact that you are about to begin a new chapter of your life. This choice feels like it means the world to you and will decide your entire future. It won’t, but it’s still a good idea to give it your all. You have to remember that while you are trying to get into college, colleges are also trying to get students. It’s all very fast-paced and pretty quickly into senior year you’ve already written your essay, your supplements, filled out your college application, updated your Naviance, and clicked the submit button. I promise you that however stressful it may seem at the time, you will get through it because you are more prepared than you think you are. This is the culmination of all your hard work and it will pay off because the right fit is out there for you somewhere.