I was entirely too excited to move away from home, so I enveloped myself in all of the research I had access to through the Internet. I wanted to move away from my home state of California, but I didn’t want to move too far away. My parents both attended UC Berkeley, so I was wrapped up in PAC-12 sports, diverse college towns and the big school atmosphere from a young age. I wanted all of it, but my independence sent me searching for somewhere that was not just 20 minutes away from my childhood home. With this information, I came upon the University of Washington and fell in love with the school with one quick glance of a picture of the cherry blossom trees blooming in the spring. The school has PAC-12 sports, a spectacular college town, a beautiful campus as well as amazing academics. It was exactly the school for me.
But how did I know it was right for me when I hadn’t even visited the campus or even been to the state of Washington before? The short answer: research. The long answer: hours upon hours of research and time spent making spreadsheets. It sounds simple, but a quick Internet search can inform you with just about any fact about any school. Research can tell you whether schools have Division I or Division II sports teams or whether your major is even offered at the institution. I applied to 10 schools spanning California, the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest, and all were carefully selected choices. I had never visited any of these schools or even some of the states these schools were in, but I knew close to everything there was to know about the schools through dozens of simple and quick searches. I knew each school I applied to like the back of my hand. I could tell you acceptance rates, student populations and which classes were required for my major at each school. While I still had my front runner in mind, I poured my time into learning even the smallest of details about each school, even prior to submitting my applications during December of my senior year. While classmates of mine applied to 15, 20 or even more schools because they had no idea where they wanted to spend their next four years, I pressed submit on the select few schools I chose to apply to.
Everyone’s senior year of high school is marked by long lost family members and intrusive strangers asking about college. Where are you going? Why do you want to go there? Do you think you will get in? What’s your second choice? Luckily for me, I could answer all of these questions easily and move onto the next topic of conversation. Spending the time researching schools before I applied not only saved my family a significant amount of money flying or driving across the United States, but it made my entire college application and decision process much smoother and easier. Instead of picking and choosing schools that were common for students at my high school to attend, I applied to schools I would actually consider going to. In the end, when my acceptance came from the University of Washington, I was ready to hit commit before I visited the school the following week. By spending the time before applying to take a deep and holistic look at each school I was considering, I saved time and money, as well as the stress of trying to pick a college during April of my senior year. All in all, missing college tours my junior year wasn’t so bad — it just meant I had to spend my time looking online rather than pining for a missed trip.
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