Beginning the college application process was an exciting time in my life. The four years I spent working hard in I.B. classes, participating in extracurricular activities and studying for the SATs became worthwhile. Little did I know that this experience would lead to a sense of relief after hitting the submit button for my first college application. Looking back on my own experience, I have realized that there are some things that I wish I knew before applying to my first college.
1. You must rely on yourself during the college application process.
When I began the college application process, I didn’t expect to gain as much independence as I did. It was a challenge for me, at first, to keep track of all the requirements and deadlines of all the colleges I was applying to. I was used to my teachers and guidance counselor constantly reminding me of upcoming deadlines for paperwork and assignments, so I quickly had to learn how to keep track of my college applications on my own by setting constant reminders on my phone and writing down the application material requirements in a journal.
2. College applications deadlines approach rather quickly.
When applying to multiple colleges, it became rather easy for me to forget certain deadlines for certain colleges. With extracurricular activities, keeping up with my schoolwork and volunteering, I found myself a little disorganized when it came to applying to college. I soon realized that even though a college’s deadline may seem distant, it’s quite close. So, it’s best to stay organized and self-efficient to ensure you can make the deadlines. Personally, I choose to use a calendar to mark off important deadlines. If I knew my test scores had to be received by the admission office by a certain date, I would mark the day I would request them to be sent to make sure colleges could receive them on time.
3. Applying to college early helps... a lot.
One of the biggest things I wish I knew was that submitting college applications early saves so much stress during the college admission process. Since the first college, I applied to, operated on rolling admissions, I believe that it gave me a better chance at being accepted into the university. The longer I would have waited, the lower of my chance of being accepted would have become. This is because the available seats in the freshman class were being filled up. Applying early lessens the stress that comes along with the college application process and would have allowed me to double check my application if I had accidently forgotten something, that way I would have had time to send in missing materials.
4. Extracurriculars are super important on college applications.
Before applying to college, I already knew that you should participate in activities outside of the classroom but I didn’t know that the type of extracurriculars matter. As a person who has many different interests, I had a variety of extracurricular activities. I participated in activities that generally interested me and that I cared about. But when I began filling out my application, my extracurriculars didn’t show colleges what my true passions were. They did not connect to each other. I wish I would have known that admission officers like to see applicants who have taken the initiative to get involved in activities that relate to their intended field of study. By doing this I could have shown colleges my demonstrated interests and could have set myself apart from other applicants.
5. It’s important to know why you’re applying to certain colleges.
When I began to complete my very first college application, there was a question on the application that asked, “Why did I want to attend the university?” I had researched the school thoroughly and had a good idea of the school but the question still stomped me. Soon, I began to realize that I didn’t have any reasons that related to me. I liked the school because I had heard good things about it from others. Knowing why I wanted to attend the university had come from other people experiences which weren't the best way to get an impression of a school. I reassessed why I wanted to attend all the schools on my application list and I eventually took some colleges off after I realized that I didn’t want to attend. I was just applying because a friend wanted to go there or my parents had expected me to.
6. Just relax and believe in yourself during the college applications process.
The biggest thing I wish I could have known before applying to my first college is that I should relax. This was considerately difficult because I have always been a worrier. I worry that everything may not turn out the way it’s supposed to. So, it came naturally for me to cast self-doubt on myself when I began the college application process. I wish I knew that it was better for me to have confidence in myself awaiting the decision after applying for my first college. I had to learn that I had no control over my admission decision once my application was submitted. I had to trust that colleges would see all the hard work and dedication that I put in for the last four years.
All in all, applying to my first college was an interesting experience. I learned a lot about myself and gained some tips that may help someone just beginning the college application process. Before I hit submit on my first college application, I wish I would have known these things to help me avoid feeling stressed out and hopefully help someone else avoid the same mistakes. Also, if you could give anyone any tips on things they should know before applying for their first college, what would it be?
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