Anyone who has made it past the whole "figuring the rest of your life out" stage of high school knows that the college application process is incredibly stressful. Being forced to reduce yourself to a series of grades and words on a paper to submit to your dream school can be a frightening experience that comes with a lot of questions and uncertainty. Fortunately, with questions come answers from people who have lived through the experience.
1. "Am I ready for this?"
This is a question that you'll be asking yourself throughout most of your life, whenever you're about to begin something new. The answer is yes, you're ready. At this point in your life, your senior year, you're ready for SOMETHING. This something, in reality, may not be college. The something you're ready for may be backpacking through Europe, studying abroad to learn a new language, taking a year to figure yourself out or getting gen-ed credits out of the way at a community college before transferring to a big university. Everyone is ready for something after high school, even if it may not be the conventional four-year higher education plan. With proper support from friends and family, you're definitely ready.
2. "How do I write an essay that will get me in?"
The truth is, there's no guaranteed acceptance essay, but there is a kind of essay that will make you stand out – an honest essay. We've all read the explain an obstacle in your life and how you overcame it essays that all sound remotely similar and follow a similar structure. Those essays can get you into college, but an essay that is raw, honest and real gives you an edge. When your essay is compared to the similarly structured essays that lack passion and honesty, you become more of a person to the reader, rather than words on a page. Ask teachers or friends for help to write something that shows who you are as a person, rather than just your ability to answer a prompt.
3. "Did I do my application correctly?"
This is a common fear. The terrifying 'what if' starts to set in and the nightmare scenario that you've done your application wrong thus nullifying any hope for college, plays in your mind over and over. Don't worry. With the structure of most college applications via sites like CommonApp, it's mostly about plugging in the right information and clicking the right buttons. The website is designed to make sure you do everything correctly, including step-by-step pages, required information and allowing you to pre-screen your application. On the off chance that something does get messed up, there are always counselors that can help you rectify the situation. If they can't help you, your best bet is always to call the school and talk to an admissions counselor directly. Someone will always be there to help you fix whatever might have gone wrong, but chances are you won't need that.
4. "What if I get rejected?"
That's one of the most brutal realities of the college application process: the dreaded rejection letter. There are a multitude of articles written on how to deal with college rejection, but there are no tips for making that initial hurt go away. There are several recommendations for this, however. Bracing yourself for that 'what if' is a grim (and fairly pessimistic) option, but it's something to keep in mind. Schools with low acceptance rates have to, in turn, reject a large quantity of people to keep their acceptance rate down. Understanding that you're not the only one going through this and knowing that sometimes it isn't you, it just wasn't meant to be, can be a helpful outlook. It's important to keep your head up if this does happen and remember that it doesn't determine your worth whether or not you get into a specific school. Making sure you have back-ups, safety schools and alternatives is important in the application process, but make sure that they're schools that you realistically see yourself at.
5. "What if I don't know what I want to do?"
Similar to the 'am I ready for this' question, you don't necessarily HAVE to go straight to college. If you decide that you want to, you have several options. You can choose to go in as an undecided major and take other classes to feel out what you like. Many students change their majors throughout their college career, adding or dropping both majors and minors. You can also go to a community college for a year (or several) to get general education credits out of the way before transferring to a bigger college, if that's what you want. Not knowing what to do is completely alright! If you're looking for guidance, asking counselors, teachers or other friends what you should do can be incredibly helpful.
The phrase 'college application' in and of itself can be scary. It comes with a multitude of questions and fears, all of which are completely valid. College is a huge step and the pressure to figure your life out can be a lot to handle. Understand, though, that there are people that have made it through this difficult time and will be there to offer support and guidance if you need it.
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