College Applications: What you need to know

Anna Lumsargis, Editor-in-Chief of On the Prowl

Now that I am a senior and have successfully applied to two colleges so far, I figured that I’d give some tips and tricks to the Class of 2021 while we try to navigate the stressful process of college admissions. 

To start off, choose your colleges wisely. Trying to pinpoint the colleges that you want to go to is half the struggle. Don’t apply anywhere that doesn’t fit your goals or needs, because let’s face it, the application process is tedious. You don’t want to waste your time and money somewhere you’re not entirely sure about. You also have to take into consideration cost, acceptance rate and distance from home. Have an arrangement of colleges that range in difficulty; safe, target and stretch schools. I would also try and visit the campus before applying, even if there are no in-person tours.

My next tip is to sit down and get the boring general information done. This was really helpful for me because I could then focus on other aspects of the application. In doing this step first, you also feel a sense of accomplishment because it could be done in a short amount of time. The essays, additional writings and letters of recommendation will take a while, so enjoy this little victory.

Another crucial part of the process is letters of recommendation. I feel like these can often be seen as daunting since you have to contact teachers and hope they write a good letter. But if you have certain teachers that you liked or that you are close with, I’m sure they would be willing to write one. You should ask them months prior to when you plan on submitting, this way they have time to format a professional letter. Remember that they are also writing for the university, so they have to be just as careful as when we are writing our essays. I would ask them in-person if possible, but regardless you should type up a nice email attached with a resume. This way they know what you have been involved with and can play to your strengths. Also, be sure to thank them. 

Now for the most intimidating part of applying, the personal essay. Write about something you are passionate about and is unique. Admission offices read thousands of essays every year, so tell what is most interesting about you. If you’ve done any big projects, had a crazy experience, or have some sort of belief that’s abnormal, go for it. Don’t write a boring essay. Also, proofreading is key. Colleges want to know you can write. Have your parents, siblings, teachers and friends read it before you submit. 

Remember to check what your college’s application requires because every school is different. They may only need one recommendation or they may need two or three. Our class is lucky in the sense that most colleges don’t require the SAT or ACT because of the virus. Use this to your advantage, if you didn’t get the score you wanted, don’t include it. However, if you score well, it’s a nice asset to your application. This process is just the stepping stone to college and no matter what happens, I hope everything works out for the best. 

The most recognizable college from each state shown on a map of the U.S.
Photo by Athnet.