Hello dear readers! My sincerest apologies for not posting anything for quite some time. The time I would normally spend writing on here has been overtaken by the evil monstrosity known as the college process. However, I recently sent in all of my college applications, and all that I have to do is wait to see where I got accepted. As I have said in recent posts, I will not say where I applied or where I am going because the Internet is full of creeps who like stalking teenagers.
For me, the most annoying part about the college process is that maybe one or two people ever gave me straight answers to my questions. The college process is so unnecessarily shrouded in mystery and confusion, and getting different pieces of advice from every single adult in my life, all of which directly contradicted each other, only made it harder for me. Now that I am more or less on the other side of things, I have decided to write an official, foolproof guide to the college process so that kids like me will no longer have to suffer through the college process more than they need to. A lot of this stuff is stuff I wish I had known going into this process but didn’t know. So, without further ado, Maisie’s Protips for the College Process!
Step 1: Brainstorm a list of qualities you would want in your ideal school.
- Do you want to go far away from home or stay close by?
- Do you want a small liberal arts college or a larger university?
- Do you want to go to a school in an urban, suburban, or rural area?
- Does the school offer majors in subjects you’re interested in?
- Do you want to go to a commuter school or a residential school?
- Do you want to go to a sporty school or a school where people don’t care about sports?
- Do you want to go to a school with Greek life?
- Do you want to go to a party school or a non-party school?
- Does the school offer clubs and activities you’re interested in?
- Is the religious affiliation of a school important to you? Would you rather go to a religiously affiliated school or a secular school?
This is not an exhaustive list of every single factor that could be important to you in your college search. Your ideal qualities might change as you go through high school, and that’s okay! Mine definitely did, and visiting schools helps to determine what qualities are most important to you (more on that in a later step).
Step 2: Take the PSAT, the Pre-ACT, or a combination SAT/ACT test to see which test you want to take.
My friends, I’m sorry to say that schools still look at the elitist BS that is standardized testing. This is one of the suckiest parts of the college process, and I wish that kids would not have to go through it. If worst comes to worst, some schools are test-optional, but taking a test is the best way to keep your options open. My school offered a free combination SAT/ACT test, and it was super helpful because it showed me which test I did better on, which ended up being the SAT.
In general, the ACT has easier questions, but very little time per question, whereas the SAT’s questions are more challenging, but you get more time to answer each question. If you can do things at a super fast pace without thinking much, the ACT might be better for you. If you need more time to work through a problem, the SAT is probably the way to go.
Step 3: Visit schools you’re interested in!
If you can, visit the schools you want to apply to. Sometimes, you end up visiting a school you thought you’d love, but you just don’t feel right on that campus. That’s okay! That’s how you learn what you want in a school! I visited several schools that I just did not feel were good fits for me, but it helped me to narrow my search to schools that I liked better.
Step 4: Take an SAT or ACT prep class before taking the test.
You can also get private tutoring if your family can afford it, but prep classes are far less expensive and prepare you for the test for a fraction of the cost of private tutoring. Oftentimes, schools or adult education programs in your town will offer relatively affordable SAT or ACT classes. I tried to prepare on my own, but that takes an amount of willpower I did not have, so having a teacher who gave me nightly homework assignments to prepare helped me a great deal. While they may not be the most fun way to spend your time, prep classes are well worth it as they give your scores a big boost.
Step 5: In the SUMMER BEFORE YOUR SENIOR YEAR, do your Common App, Common App essay and supplemental essays for schools.
I cannot possibly stress this enough! The Common App opens in July every year, so get it done! A lot of people gave me this advice, but I was a naive almost-senior and put it off until the beginning of the school year. Biggest mistake of my life. Procrastinating on the college process just made the beginning of senior year absolute hell. If I had finished everything before school started, senior year would have started off a lot smoother.
Protips for the Common App essay:
- Get the book Crushing the Common App Essay: A Foolproof Guide to Getting into Your Top College, by Julie Ferber Frank. This book saved my butt while I was writing my Common App essay.
- Get ONE PERSON to read it. Let me repeat this: GET ONE PERSON, AND ONE PERSON ONLY, TO READ YOUR FREAKING ESSAY. Contradicting advice makes the most important essay you’ve ever written approximately 5 million times more difficult. This person should be a college counselor or someone else who has actually helped people get into college and knows what colleges want. I was lucky enough for my family to be able to get me a private college counselor, but I’m pretty sure Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs offer college counseling to kids who can’t afford it otherwise.
Step 6: Submit EVERYTHING on or before November 1 or whatever your earliest deadline is.
There is nothing worse than having a million different deadlines swirling around in your head, so make it easy on yourself by just submitting every single one of your college apps on the day of your earliest deadline.
That concludes my protips on the college process. Let me know if I missed anything, and if you use any of my protips, let me know how it goes!