Things I wish I knew before applying for colleges:
- Try to write as many of your essays before you start your senior year. I did the bulk of my applications in October/November. I remember trying to balance homework, tests, extracurriculars, senior activities, AND writing 238479283 five-hundred word essays. Not only was it not fun, but I felt like because so much was going on, I wasn’t able to focus and give as much thought to my applications as I would have liked.
- Think hard about why you’re applying to these prospective schools. Can you actually see yourself going there? Could you see yourself interacting with the people, the environment, etc. every day? I look back and I know there was at least one school where I had NO idea why I applied in the first place. Even if I had been accepted, I knew I wouldn’t have attended anyway. Consequently, I would saved a lot of time not slaving away over that school’s application.
- When writing essays, don’t choose a topic you’re not passionate and/or knowledgeable about just because you think that is what admissions counselors want to see. You (and your writing) shine the most when you are yourself in these writing supplements - these people really do want to learn a bit about you and how you think! :)
- Double check the required word count/limit before you begin writing. Seriously. Not kidding. I slaved away on an essay I believed to have a 2,000 word limit, when it was actually a 2,000 character limit. Very different. Yikes.
- Have several people proof read your writing supplements. Make sure you have a variety of people (friends, teachers, other adults, etc.), and you aren’t just asking your best friend. Also, make sure your formatting is correct and even small punctuation and grammatical errors are omitted. It actually really makes a difference.
- If the school you’re applying to requires teacher recommendations, ask your teacher(s) right when the school year begins if they would like to write one for you. If this teacher is going to be writing about how great you are, etc. make sure you are considerate of their time – don’t ask them a week before the application due date. They probably (definitely) won’t be very happy. Additionally, think about writing your teachers thank you notes when the whole process is over. Seriously. It makes them so happy.
- It can be hard. It can be very stressful. It can be disheartening at times. But it will all be worth it when it’s May and you finally commit to a school you’re passionate and excited about attending. I remember the day I heard back from GWU (my current school), I was so thrilled and all that work I had done finally felt worth it.
Anyways, I really hope this helps even a tiny bit! I remember this time of year being super stressful and even frustrating at times. However, it’s really just a time to sell yourself to these schools and show them how hard you have worked all these years. :) I wish everyone luck in their application processes!