By: Peyton Lawson
Dear College-bound Members of the Class of 2019,
Congratulations on having completed your junior year of high school. Enjoy your summer, but you aren’t done yet. Beware, senior year is pretty crazy. If you don’t believe me, refer to my previous “Dear Class of 2019” article. Whether you believe it or are in denial, the time for you to actually apply for colleges is rapidly approaching. I’ve created a list of tips that I wish I could tell every junior based on lessons I learned throughout the process.
- Start making your college list now. I know you’re tired of school and ready for days where you don’t have to think about deadlines or the future but creating a list of the schools you plan to apply to will make the application process much less hectic. Don’t be like me. Come the fall, I had a few ideas of where I wanted to go to school but was still stuck writing essays for schools that I wasn’t sure if I’d even be happy attending. I hadn’t done enough research. This caused me extra stress, so don’t be like me. Start going on school websites, going on virtual tours, signing up for mailing lists, and visit if you can. Knowing your major can also help you narrow down the large pool of schools. That being said, if you are unsure of what you want to major in, that is okay. During my application process, I felt behind my peers because I had no clue what I was going to major in and continued to have to check the undecided box on applications. I can assure you; it’s fine. Most of your peers who have a major are closeted undecideds anyways.
- Don’t hesitate to apply to a reach school or two. You know, those schools that you don’t feel like you have a chance at? Those schools whose average statistics are just barely above yours? Just apply. It is worth a shot. Worst case, you don’t get in. So what? You haven’t lost anything. Best case, you get it– someone has to. As a rule of thumb, think of your college list as a pyramid, especially if you aren’t sure where you want to go. Apply to several “safety schools” that you could see yourself being happy at, a few that your stats are right or par for, and one or two reach schools. However, keep in mind that it’s a waste of time to apply for a bunch of schools that you wouldn’t be happy with.
- There are differences between public and private, in and out of state, especially when it comes to cost. When applying, I would recommend looking into whether schools are private or public and in or out of state. Generally, schools in our state are significantly cheaper than out of state schools. Public schools tend to be cheaper than private. While every applicant and every school is different, these are things to be aware of when you’re making your list.
- Ask recommenders early. For most applications for schools and scholarships, you will need recommendations from teachers or people in your community. These should be people that know you well. It is best to ask them now or early next year for your recommendation. Chances are, you won’t be the only one to ask, and you don’t want them to feel rushed or even say no because you asked too late.
- Try to get your target SAT/ACT score as early in the school year as possible. If you aren’t happy with your test scores, you’ll want to use the summer to study. Do this by taking practice tests or other online study tools. The Barrons books worked well for me. It is also important to note that you don’t have to have outstanding ACT and SAT scores; you’re only required to submit one of the two for most schools. Personally, I prefer the ACT, and my scores were better, so I spent last summer reviewing and retaking. Everyone is different. Regardless, take the tests as soon as possible so that you have time to take it again if you aren’t happy with your scores. You don’t want to wait until the last test date to make your application deadline — it’s too much stress. At the end of the day, don’t stress yourself out about scores too much. Just do your best.
- Apply early. Most schools offer an early deadline of some sort. Some schools offer early action, some offer early decision. It depends on the school, but acceptance rates are higher for these deadlines than the regular ones because fewer students apply for them. So, if you can, apply at these times. You’ll also get your decisions much earlier. It is important to note that early decision is binding. If you apply ED, you are agreeing to go to that school given that you’re accepted. Don’t apply ED unless you are 100% sure. Early action is just like regular decision, it is not binding. Its main difference is that you have to apply earlier, and you’re more likely to get in. This is the way to go.
- Start your essays early because they take a lot of time, or at least they should.
- Apply for as many scholarships as you can. You probably already know this, but, college is pretty expensive. There are schools and organizations literally handing out money to people with qualifying stats and essays. Apply, apply, apply. You may not get any, but it is worth a try, I promise.
- Prepare for the fees. There are fees for just about everything– applying for college, sending transcripts, sending test scores. Just be ready for it. I sure wasn’t.
- Ask for help. Teachers, counselors, and administrators all want to see you succeed. Go ask them for help if you need it. Ask them to revise an essay. Ask them about their college– the things they liked and disliked about the school they attended, and their experience.
- Wait…then wait some more. Trust that it will all work out; then, make a decision. Once you press submit, it becomes a waiting game. People will be constantly asking you where you’re going to school. You’ll have to explain that you aren’t sure yet. It can be difficult to go a day without wondering what you’ll be doing in the fall. Try not to freak out too much. It will all work out. Decision day will come and go. You’ll either get in to the schools or you won’t. Personally, I applied to 9 schools (would not recommend). I did my fair share of stressing. I got acceptances and a few denials. In fact, I got denied from the school that I had fallen in love with and been telling people I wanted to go to. I knew the odds but had high hopes anyway. I was pretty upset — I won’t lie. But now, I realize that the school would’ve been way too expensive anyway, and I am more than excited to be a Tarheel next year. I can’t imagine any other way. It will all work out, don’t worry, even though I know you will. Sooner than you realize, you’ll have all of your decisions back and it will be time to pick. Let your brain have a say, but follow your heart. Don’t pay a fortune, if you don’t have to, but go somewhere that will both challenge you and make you happy. Find a second home.
At the end of the day, everything will be okay. There’s plenty of resources. You’ll figure it out; I promise.
A Senior that is finally done with it all
P.S: Does anyone from the class of 2017 have any advice for me? I’m going to need it.