How To Survive The College Application Process

Ask honest questions and get free lunch out of it.

If you’re a high school senior, you know well that college application season is right around the corner. As the oldest, I was the first child in my family to go through this process and I would’ve loved some advice about how to survive it. With that being said, here are seven tips on how to survive the college application process.

1. Apply early.

This may go without being said, but being early is so important. College admissions can only accept until the incoming class is full, so even if you’re the top applicant with the highest SAT score and top notch grades, when the spots are gone, they’re gone. Applying early also means you can secure housing, which is more important than you probably realize. Most colleges (including mine) accept a lot more students than they actually want to attend, because a lot of students will end up enrolling somewhere else. The lofty people in college admissions call this the “meltaway” number. However, sometimes not as many students “melt away” as they’re expecting, and this means there is a shortage in housing. The earlier you apply, the more likely you are to secure your spot. Remember, almost every university has a refundable deposit by May 1st. If you change your mind, you can always get your deposit back.

2. Talk to your parents and figure out what’s realistic.

The last thing you want is to have your heart set on a college and then realize you can’t realistically afford it. If your parents are financing your education, of course they have a little more say over what’s realistic. If you’re financing it, the decision is up to you, but it couldn’t hurt to ask your parents for guidance. Student loans are great, but they mean (possibly) graduating in a heap of debt. Figure out what you can do, and work from there.

3. Visit campus.

The brochure or website does a great job of making every college campus look like its best day, but depending on where you go, the “best days” are few and far between. The only way to get a full sense of what a campus is like is to get on it and tour it. Most colleges are SO receptive to prospective students! Schedule a tour with the admissions office and you may end up with: A) a T-shirt, B) your lunch paid for, or C) all of the above. What have you got to lose, really?

4. Ask honest questions.

This is one of my most important pieces of advice. As you apply to various colleges, you’ll hear this phrase over and over: “Let me know if you have any questions!” You’ll hear it from current students, admissions counselors, alumni, and everyone in between. I encourage you to take them up on the offer. Ask exactly what you want to know. Most likely, they’ll be honest with you and that’ll help you get a fuller sense of that college.

5. Start narrowing down your choices.

When you have heard back from most of the colleges you’ve applied from, it’s time to start narrowing them down. Odds are, some stuck out to you more than others, so it’s smart to take some out of the equation. Try and get it down to about three or four potential places.

6. Make connections.

Now that you’ve narrowed it down some, start looking into who you may know that goes or attended that university. You can also meet people in your same situation by searching your school’s initials and your class (for me, it was #BU20, but for you it could be #UCLA21, etc.). That’s the best place to make friends before you’re all in one place. It may be a little awkward, but know that everyone is in the same situation as you!

7. Make a decision.

This may sound obvious, but making a decision and sticking to it is important. Out of the colleges you’ve narrowed it down to, you probably can’t go wrong. No matter where you choose, you will likely have some doubts and second-guessing. Know that you will likely not feel 100 percent confident in your choice until after move in, and even then you may have moments of doubt. It’ll be OK. If it isn’t, you can always transfer.

The world will not come to an end.