College application is without a doubt one of the most stressful times in a high schooler’s career.
Seeing as I’ve spent the past year or so navigating the college applications process, I wanted to make this column a checklist of sorts to help current underclassmen improve their chances of getting into the schools they want, based on what I have learned this past year about applying to college.
College applications ultimately start at the beginning of high school, so to all freshmen out there, try to challenge yourself. If your school offers AP or dual enrollment classes, take those classes. If your school doesn’t, that’s okay too, but make sure you take advantage of whatever resources your school has available. Taking academically challenging courses (and doing well in them) shows admissions officers the level of academic achievement you are capable of and lets them know that you are willing and able to challenge yourself and grow as a student.
Good extracurriculars are a key part of your college applications. Extracurriculars aren’t limited to just clubs and sports within your school (although you should absolutely fill your resume with as many of those as you can), it also means jobs, volunteering or anything you do after school. Admissions officers want to know that students are spending their time productively and responsibly in and out of school. My list of extracurriculars included National Honor Society, Student Council, Drama Club, and more in-school clubs, as well as multiple jobs that I had throughout high school and my job at The Daily Star writing for the Teen Talk column. I am convinced that my extracurriculars are what got me into my top-choice college.
The college essay is possibly the most important piece, and for many students, the most dreaded part of college applications. My sophomore and junior year English teacher told my class that the purpose of the college essay is to sell yourself to the admissions officers; your essay shows them who you are, and a good essay can make or break your application. I spent a good amount of time in class working on potential college essays, and a version of the one I wrote in class was actually the one I ended up using on my applications, but if you don’t practice in class, look up the Common Application essay questions and practice some on your own. Write several drafts; it doesn’t have to be perfect on the first try, and it won’t be, but the most important thing is to get your thoughts out there and be authentic.
Each college you apply to will actually have its own supplemental essay, which is something I didn’t know until I actually sat down to fill out my applications. These can be a real killer because you don’t realize how many there are until you start to write them. I applied to six schools, and five of them had multiple short supplements I had to write. There are several websites, including Collegevine, that will give you some insight into what schools are looking for in their supplements.
Applying to college is hard and very stressful. Start early, set deadlines for yourself, and hold yourself accountable. Try not to procrastinate, especially on the essay. Choose the colleges you apply to wisely; don’t apply because your friends are applying. If you can’t see yourself spending the next four years of your life at a certain school, don’t waste the time or money applying there. Lastly, don’t stress yourself out too much, especially once you’ve submitted your applications; everything will work out. I’ve been in a constant state of panic since I sent in my applications, worrying that I wouldn’t get into any of the colleges I applied to or that they wouldn’t give me any financial aid, and when my results came back, all of my worrying ended up being for nothing. If there’s anything this year has taught us, it’s that life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan, and that’s okay. Everything works out in the end.
To all the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors out there, I hope this column helps you with your college applications, and to any seniors like me, I hope you got accepted to the colleges you wanted. This year has been tough, but things can only get better from here.
Kate Morano is a junior at Morris Central School. Readers can contact her at email@example.com.