I get almost daily e-mails about new college-focused web sites launched by industrious and creative young entrepreneurs. HerCampus.com is one of them. Started by three ambitious young women from Harvard, the site is aimed at college and high school students and offers practical advice on admissions and adjustments to college.
It has a lot of advice on the social aspects of college — “A Freshman Girl’s Guide to Frat Parties” — and what to wear – “20 Ways to Wear a Plain White T.”
But I thought this list of “Ten Things No One Told You About The College Application Process,” reminiscent of the advice I shared here a few weeks ago from the author of a well-known college guide, was useful to share with teens. I am not sure it’s true that no one has ever told students these 10 things, but they are worth repeating.
So here is the list — edited a bit – from Her Campus:
10 – The application process can put a strain on friendships and relationships. Even though you and your best friends are the real-life ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’, applying to college can hurt even the best sisterhoods. Some of you may stress out about the process while others don’t, one of you may get into your dream school and another doesn’t, and you may be able to pay for college even though your BFF can’t.
9 – Labels stop mattering after high school. While who’s popular, who’s smarter, and so on may dominate most of your thoughts in high school, those labels stop mattering after graduation. Why is it important to know this as you’re applying to college? Because you shouldn’t feel like you have to compete with your classmates to get into the best schools. If you apply to schools that not many people have heard of or ones that are labeled as “easy” to get into, be proud of that.
8 – Your dream school may change. Just like Rory Gilmore in Gilmore Girls, who had dreamed of going to Harvard only to discover she loved Yale more, your dream school may change as you’re going through the application process.
7 – If you don’t get into your dream school, it’s not the end of the world. Go ahead. Have a good cry. Your best friend got into the school you’ve been dying to go to since you were 3 years old, and you didn’t. But after you’ve used up three boxes of tissues and eaten four pints of Ben & Jerry’s, it’s time to come up with a new game plan.
6 – Always (we repeat: ALWAYS) apply to multiple safety schools. So you’ve applied to Harvard, Northwestern, Stanford, NYU and Boston College. You’re bound to get into one, right? Not necessarily. No matter how high of a GPA you have, always apply to a few safety schools (schools that you are likely get into) in case those Ivy Leagues or other top tier schools send rejection letters. And by a few, we don’t mean just one, because you aren’t guaranteed a spot at a safety school, either.
5 – Senior grades DO matter. After you’ve applied, your grades don’t matter anymore … right? Wrong! Colleges have caught on to students who think they can stop doing homework after those applications have been sent in, and many now require you to send in your final grades after you’ve been wait-listed or accepted.
4 – Consider Early Decision II. You’ve probably heard of early decision and early action, but have you heard of early decision II? This option, provided by some colleges, is similar to early decision in that if you are accepted, it is a binding agreement. The difference is that you apply later than early decision (December or January) and receive a decision later (usually in early February). Applying early decision II is great in that it gives you more time to research and visit schools and make sure the school you’re applying to is your first choice.
3 – Parents will probably be more involved than you think they will be. Most parents are involved in the everyday lives of their children, and they will be actively involved in the application process – every step of the way. Dad may want you to apply to his alma mater, or mom may want you to apply to the school where she always dreamed of going. Yes, it can be annoying at times, but parents can also be most helpful.
2 – You may doubt yourself and everything you have done in high school. As you fill out your college applications, you may think that the Spanish club and the school play aren’t enough to get you accepted. Don’t stress out and make your four years of hard work seem meaningless. Everyone has different strengths and interests, and it’s important to play up what makes you unique. Sure, you may only have one club to put on your application, but maybe you became the president and that kind of thing doesn’t go unnoticed.
1 – No matter what, this is your decision. Advice is helpful, but when it comes time to eventually making a decision, students should shut everyone and all of their expectations out in favor of themselves. Applying to college isn’t easy, but making sure you do so with confidence is essential. It may be a decision that could dictate the best four years of your life, but if it doesn’t, transferring is always an option.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog