As a College Counselor, students often tell me they feel overwhelmed by the college application process. While it can feel overwhelming, there are some ways students can help themselves make sure the process goes smoothly. Here are my best tips for applying to college!
Managing stress: Schedule your downtime. The fall of senior year is filled with “To Dos”, both in and out of class. Work backwards from your first deadline—schedule when you will work on your applications, when you will do your schoolwork, and fit in some downtime. You control how you spend your time, don’t let time control you!
Common Application Essay. Colleges want to know something about you that they cannot see in another part of your application. Who are you? Will you be a good friend or roommate? Essays do not have to be a grand story or experience. Admission officers will tell you that some of the most effective essays are about simple things. Make it your own and highlight an aspect of yourself that is meaningful to you.
Supplemental essays. Answer the question being asked! Often students want to cut corners, cutting and pasting one essay to answer the question of another. Beware of this tactic. A popular question is, “why do you want to go to XX University?” They want to know that you did your homework beyond the landing page on their website. Dig into the school’s website and find things at that university that connect to your interests, both in and out of class. Be specific.
The interview. This is probably the most nerve-wracking part for most students, and yet it shouldn’t be! No one knows you and your interests more than you do. You should look at the interview as more of a conversation. Sometimes, the interviewer is someone from the admission department, but often it’s an alumnus of the university. Colleges want to get a perspective of someone who does not know you as your teachers, and counselors do. Get your interviewer talking about their experience with the school, it will make the conversation feel more relaxed.
Submit your best work. What happens after that, isn’t up to you! Know that you have submitted your best work and applied to a balanced list of schools. Be true to yourself and make sure you’re applying to a school that is a good fit for you. The REAL you!
Beth Ann has served as the Director of College Counseling at George School, in Newtown, Pennsylvania, since 2016. She previously served as the Associate Director of College Counseling at the Hun School of Princeton and worked at Drexel University in college admissions, and the University of Pennsylvania in international admissions. Beth Ann has reviewed thousands of applications for admission to these institutions and is an active member of NACAC and the International ACAC. Beth Ann and the College Counseling team visit universities throughout the US and abroad to provide firsthand experience to students as they discern their college process.