Views and Great (College) Expectations


Jack Berens, Co-editor

The following is my humble (disclaimer – possibly misleading) opinions about the college application process.  Good luck to everyone with your applications!

First, I’d like to stress that applying to colleges is one important step in the entire college selection journey.  Ideally, prospective students will visit/plan on visiting the campuses of their top-choice schools.  Also, should you be accepted (and you hopefully will!), there are a lot of details to hammer out before you step into the classroom on your first day as a college student.

Let me the first one to say that I am nearly oblivious as to what specifics college admissions officers examine before making decisions on applicants.  There is a well-known mantra in the world of high school seniors that you will get into schools you probably shouldn’t and will probably be rejected/deferred to ones you should’ve been accepted into.  While “Chance Me” threads and scrolling through College Confidential’s “Admitted Students ‘Stats’ Sections” alongside PrepScholar algorithms may be somewhat decent indicators, it is impossible to figure out the methodologies that universities use.  However, colleges are frank that ” demonstrated interest,” such as visiting the campus and submitting your application Early Action (non-binding), signals your sincere intention in attending their institution.  If your heart is set on a school and your parents and guidance counselor are on board with you, applying Early Decision (binding) to schools that provide that option ought to signify a major potential commitment you have to the college.  In short, applying to colleges in the fall of your senior year to those that offer Early Action should be advantageous to you.  Even if you’d rather wait until Regular Decision in the winter, it’s best to get them out of the way early.

I applied to a dozen schools, and if you think that’s too many (I agree with you), some of my friends even applied to 30+ schools.  My belief was that applying to a variety of colleges was advantageous because if I didn’t get accepted to my top choice, then I’d have a suitable backup.  Also, there was the possibility of more scholarship offers in my mind on account of the wider net I casted.  While both of these assumptions are technically true, I advise you to apply to fewer than ten institutions.  It should save you time, money, and effort. If the sole reason you’re applying to a college is in the hopes that you’ll get a ton of scholarship money from them or even a full-ride, you probably shouldn’t be applying.  Colleges easily differentiate students who aren’t serious about them from those who are, and all that scholarship money more times than not heads toward the prospective students who actually want to be there.  Colleges, especially private ones, are more than happy to dip into their endowment to aid students in attending their school provided that students are serious about doing so.  Succinctly, apply to schools you’re serious about attending.  Admissions officers are smart cookies who know the difference between a student who’s interested in their school or just their money.

The hardest part of the college application may be its simplest reality: you have to wait until your decision is announced, which may take a day or several months.  Some schools let you know that decisions will be released on a certain day while some say they’ll be out in general time period (ex: mid-January) or by a specific day.  Patience is hard, especially when you’ve essentially worked your entire academic career thus far in order to go to college.  Virtually every college releases decisions first in its application portal, then in an email (typically hours later), and finally in a letter in the mail (if you were accepted).  The acceptance letter may take a few days or up to a month.  It’s worth noting, if it has been more than six weeks since you’ve been accepted and your letter of admission/admission packet hasn’t arrived, you should probably email/call the admissions office.  In regard to the anxiety-inducing waiting game, the late great rocker Tom Petty says it best as “the waiting game is the hardest part.”  It really is, and unfortunately, there’s nothing I can really say to alleviate that anxiety.  Just remember that everyone else is in the same boat and that there are tons of amazing colleges out there.

Another helpful tidbit to remind yourself is that colleges don’t expect perfection.  Everyone has ups and downs in life, school, extracurriculars, health, and family, and admissions officers are people too, so they realize this!  If the only reason you’re not applying to a school is that you believe your adversities have hindered you, please reconsider this.  Colleges want students who have battled adversity!  If you’re willing, it may be a positive to explain through your essays/additional information sections in the application about challenges you’ve faced in your life and how you’ve dealt/managed/overcame them.  Authenticity is at a premium in the world of college applications.

There are so many factors that go into the college selection process, and to enumerate them in an article would be pretty fruitless.  I suggest talking to your guidance counselor and consulting college websites (PrepScholar, CollegeData, US News, etc.) in order to quench your thirst for the sweet nectar of college knowledge.

More than anything, college is about fit.  Colleges that you are similar to the “average student” in terms of GPA, test scores, career goals that are financially doable/affordable can make great fits.  Trust your gut/heart, and at the end of the day, the only thing you can control in this entire process is you.  All you need to do is your best.

Good luck!