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5 Things to Know before Applying to College



Many overwhelming, even contradictory, feelings accompany the process of applying to college, such as excitement, worry, anticipation, and stress. After all, you are leaving your school and embarking on a major new step towards a more open and stable future. Before you embark on this journey, you should consider five key things in the early steps of application process.


1. Start planning early

You’ve probably been told so many times to start planning and investigating colleges when you’re still in high school that it may sound cliché. Just the idea of figuring out your future when it feels as though you only started high school yesterday can be frightening. However, searching for the right college that can help to jump start your personal and academic growth takes effort, whether you begin as a freshman or senior. The difference lies in the time you have ahead to really reflect about what you want, what makes financial sense, and what makes each school or program different. To make the best decision for you, it makes sense to spread the process out and take your time rather than having to rush to research and apply all at once.


2. Choosing according to your needs

If you know what you enjoy and are good at, search for a college that offers a program that will help turn your passion into experience and finally into a career. Each college has specialty majors that make it stand out from others. Mark these points of difference to help narrow your search and college choice. Once you’ve narrowed your choices, visit as many colleges as possible. College admission is not only based on grades and test scores, but also being able to convince decision-makers at your college of choice that you truly understand what makes the school unique and what you might be able to add to their community.


3. Location and size

Besides location – whether your college of choice is close to home or not and how you feel about that - its size and surrounding area are just as important. While movies have glamorized the idea of large colleges in idyllic settings far from home, such places rarely reflect reality, and even if they did, it still may not be suitable for everyone. Some prefer huge dining and lecture halls and a campus bustling with activity and people, while you may like smaller classes with more personal interaction with professors and other students and a campus that isn’t overwhelming. You may also love to be in a major city as opposed to a more suburban or even rural setting. These decisions will help you narrow your list and may also play a role in the finances because being in a city or traveling far from home might be more expensive.


4. Consider finances

The thought of paying for college can be scary for many students, regardless of income. Covid-19 has only exacerbated the situation as families face job losses and institutions face budgetary shortfalls. Picking a college that has your program of choice, a strong history of financial aid, and won’t saddle you with a lifetime of debt will be crucial to your longer post-college life.

Specific colleges offer scholarships, and the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) has been a go-to resource for students in need of financial aid. It requires filling out an online form, which for the 2021-22 academic year became available on October 1. It is essential to file the FAFSA as early as possible. You can choose several universities, and your potential aid will be included in all of them. Even if you are not sure whether you want to attend a specific college or not, there is no harm in selecting it in your application.

An important step in this process for everyone should be to apply for a scholarship rather than miss the opportunity that post-secondary education offers to secure futures.


5. Invest in your college essays

College essays are key to your overall application because they allow your voice to be heard. A personal and well-crafted piece can strengthen your overall application, so take them seriously, give them a lot of thought, be creative, and make sure they reflect who you are and not the person editing your work. Many high schools, libraries, and non-profit centers offer workshops to support students with their essays and provide feedback. Get started on essays as early as possible so you can get your writing to people before the big late-fall rush and attend as many of these sessions as you feel you need.


Key takeaway

Going off to college may be something you and your family have been planning and working towards for years, while for others it may seem out of reach or overwhelming. There are many factors that figure into the admissions journey, but financial ones tend to be very pressing. If you dream of going to a post-secondary school and preparing for a career, do it properly and with confidence. Take it one step at a time, starting with self-reflection, moving to school research, factor in the financials, apply for scholarships, and move with the knowledge that there is a school and program for everyone. You’ve made it this far; you are ready for the next step!


Written by Jasdeep Singh

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