It is a wonderful time of year for everyone, especially the seniors. They are so overjoyed that they are tasked with submitting college applications, another light task along with their ten AP classes, three jobs, and six clubs per day.
They then tell their underclassmen friends about the process, and they start to freak out. “What college do I go to? Why, God, why?” they cry. They ponder “If only there were a guide that could tell me exactly the dos and don’ts of the college process…”
Start touring colleges yesterday
Hopefully, you have a rough idea of what environment you want to be in when you go to college before you begin touring. Take into account whether the college is in a rural, suburban, or urban setting, how many students go there, and how big in size the campus itself is.
One thing you should do, while you should establish criteria for what you want in your schools: keep your options open. By the end of your college search, you should be applying to anywhere from seven to ten universities.
I started doing college visits freshman year with little to no idea on what type of environment I wanted to be in. Quickly, I learned that I would want to go to a campus that’s medium-sized, has around 4,000-10,000 students on campus, and is urban. That freshman year, I toured the campus of High Point University. It was less of a tour and more of an experience. It seemed like a wonderful place to live and get an education for the next four or more years of my life. That was until I learned about the culture there.
Learn about student life
The culture at High Point University is notoriously awful. There have been numerous crimes that have allegedly been covered up by the immense vault of money owned by one Nido Qubein, the president of HPU. Most notably, there was an incident where his son, Michael, was the “pledge master” in an incident where someone in his fraternity died from a hazing incident, that Nido apparently tried to cover up.
This is not an editorial about that one incident. The point is you need to research what life really is like on the campus. Will it be a boy’s club where fraternities rule the roost and terrorize parties? Will it be a good, Christian college that expels people for saying “heck”? Think long and hard about what type of people you are willing to live with. Yes, it is easy to get a roommate with similar interests to you, but if you go to a school like Valparaiso and you are an Agnostic, chances are you will have a hard time relating to people in that aspect.
Submitting your CommonApp information should be a family bonding experience
A large amount of schools take applications from either The Common App or Coalition. It is important that you know which schools take Common App, which ones take Coalition, and which ones make you use their own website. One common formality between these three options is that they ask for information about nearly everything. I highly recommend two things: you sit down with your parents while doing it, and not holding off on doing it.
As previously stated, it asks for everything, and I mean it. Information needed includes your parents’ educational background, job, position title, if they are or have ever been employed at a university, and many more things. Do not be that guy that texts his/her mom “MOM PLEASE HELP WHAT DEGREES DID YOU GET IN COLLEGE” fifteen minutes before the application is due.
Naviance’s features are your best friend
Did the word “Naviance” instigate any groaning in middle school? If it did, then your way of thinking needs to change, and now. Naviance has an array of features useful for helping you find your college. They have the Scattergrams, which puts your SAT score and GPA on a graph and compares it with other students from Atholton that applied to that school, with symbols showing students either were accepted, declined, or anything else. There is also the SuperMatch feature that you can use in the early stages of your college search. You enter in some basic things such as how big you would like the student population, region of the United States, specific majors/programs, and a plethora of other filters you can use in order for Naviance to calculate what schools cater to your needs the most.
Ever want to visit a college but haven’t had the time? Naviance has you covered. They have a “College Visits” tab that tells you all about when certain colleges’ representatives are coming to Atholton. You can sign up for that college’s visit and, in the Career Center, the representative will give a half-hour information session that you would get if you were at a college visit. If the college’s representative is coming to town, I highly recommend you sign up for and go to those visits.
As hard as you may find it to believe, this is not an officially sponsored Naviance advertisement; and yes, I wish it was. Regardless, I cannot put into words how useful Naviance has been in my college search.
Think long and hard about which school will most easily jumpstart your career
This is quite obviously something you should do, but you should not just think “this college has the program I want, so I will go to it.” Research that program. Has it churned out any notable people that have been game breakers in their industry? Is the program stable and reputable in general? What opportunities does it provide?
On the subject of opportunities, look at what internships are available. Since I am trying to become a sports broadcaster, one thing I am looking for is a college that is in or right next to a city with some big market teams. That is the main reason why I am looking at colleges in places like Tampa, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and Charlotte. Tampa has the Lightning, the Buccaneers, and the Rays; Pittsburgh has the Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates; Nashville has the Predators and the Titans; Charlotte has the Panthers and Hornets. If I am an aspiring sports journalist, I am salivating at that opportunity and would not hesitate to apply to colleges with journalism majors in that area.
Other times, schools have partnerships with companies in order to provide opportunities for a Living Learning Community (LLC). For example, Elon has a partnership with the ESPN family of networks and has a Sport Management and Media LLC. Wingate also has a partnership with ESPN and has a sports broadcasting major that is tailored to suit that path.
An important step in a person’s life, pressing that submit button to send that application is one of the most satisfying things to do. Before you sit back, relax for ten seconds, then start losing sleep over whether you will or won’t get into your dream college, you hopefully have not missed the most important step: sending everything. Your letters of recommendation, transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, the FAFSA, the FERPA, the letter of recommendation waiver, a CSS profile, even Tuition Exchange requests for the folks with parents that are Tuition Exchange school professor(s) should all be filled out as soon as possible.
As of writing this, I have gotten word from Wingate that, thanks in part to strenuous and timely work, I was accepted to the university and found out what scholarships I qualified for in a matter of 36 hours. This, unfortunately, does not apply to every college out there, but it effectively was a better option time-wise than the priority application that I was selected to fill out.
Now that you have gotten all of your forms sent in, the college application process is complete. You are on your way to furthering your education, kickstarting your career, perhaps finding a significant other, and switching your major to “Undecided” out of panic. No matter what happens, this process is very daunting and just finishing it without bursting into tears. is a feat all on its own. Suddenly, you look in your mailbox. It’s a letter from a college you applied to. You know this can only mean one thing. You rip open the letter and…