College Preparation

The junior and senior year of high school are often seen as the beginning to adulthood and self sufficiency. Perhaps choosing a college, which can effect the next few years of your life, has something to do with this common belief. When applying to various schools there are many criteria and options for every type of educational institution. While some things to keep in mind during your application process seem obvious, others are not.

Cost Means Nothing

The price of college tuition especially during a recession seems to be the deciding factor for many high school students when choosing a college. If you do not have $50,000.00 per year to pay for school then why bother applying? The reason you should apply to a college based on factors other than price is because most schools offer generous financial aid packages in addition to other student aid available. University endowments, partial academic scholarships and federal Stafford loans are just some of the funding options available to many students.

Another reason to not focus on college price is because schools often factor in every expense into the tuition fee. If you do your research, you will find many ways to cut back on college costs. Tuition estimates on college websites are often a compilation of room & board, travel expenses, books, supplies and tuition. Depending on if you will be living on or off campus, the tuition price might be cheaper for you. Also, many students have taken advantage of sites such as Amazon and EBay for gentle used college textbooks often 50% less than the original. If you decide to spend smart you can easily decrease this over estimation of tuition by many universities.

Follow Your Own Path

Starting the application process with others in mind is one big step in the wrong direction. The last thing that you would want to do is to force a fit and be unhappy for the next four years of your life. Even if you go to Harvard, being unhappy will greatly limit your chances at being successful there. When starting your process make sure that you are applying to schools you truly want to go to for the right reasons. If you are looking for the best party school, consider saving your family and yourself the time and money. If you want to major in art, do not go to a polytechnic school just to please your parents.

Following your own path can be difficult at times especially when hard decisions must be made. This is apart of the college experience. Finding yourself and making choices is a leap towards adulthood. Even when you decide on a school there is always the possibility that it might not work out. By following your own path, you can make the hard choice of transferring to a new institution and starting again. For some, the path will lead them to take some time off in between high school and college. While people may give you a hard time, you are the one who has to attend classes daily and spend your money. Choosing a college for your own reasons shows the proper respect to yourself as an individual.

Grades Are Important

Grades do have their place. While they are not the sole factor in what school you will be able to attend, they do play a major part. Overall well rounded high school careers are encouraged, but not excelling in one aspect can hurt you. No one is saying that you must be a genius but having average grades, average athletic ability and average participation in school activities makes you an overall average student with only so much to offer.

This may sound harsh but the truth hurts. On the bright side, there is a solution. For high school juniors, consider your options. If you are a below average student with few school activities, try to raise your grades. Joining clubs and sports late in your high school career is not that impressive to schools since you most likely will not have time to excel in them. If you have average to above average grades and little school involvement, try your hand at volunteer work or regular employment. Helping others or your display of work ethic is usually noted by schools. Setting yourself apart from the pack is a goal that you should hope to reach by the time you are applying for college.

Take Your College Essays Seriously

College essays give you a great opportunity to tell an admissions panel something unique about yourself that cannot simply be placed on a form. Sincerity and honesty are key to writing essays. Begging or bragging should both be avoided when writing your essay. Remember, admission panels are human too. Reading an essay full of how great you are is not their idea of humility. On the other side of the spectrum, reading an essay in which you are begging to get into the school or your life is over ends up pressuring panels which is something no one likes.

While you should avoid these things, there are creative ways to tell your story in a truthful way. If you do have a rags to riches tale or you are that diamond in the rough, base your essay on it. Sharing a particularly hard point in your life and how you pulled through only to make it to where you are today shows a panel that you are dedicated. Once again, the panel being human will be able to connect with this and feel sincerity which is often left out of college essays today.

No matter what your essay topic, take the time to plan and write. If you have 10 applications to get through do not create a generic essay. Sit down and think about what you want to share about your life up to this point. At this point quality over quantity will be the best advice concerning college essays. Reading a 5 page essay about your shopping experience at Macy’s filled with typos is not worth more than a 2 page essay about the influence of a loving mother.

The most important thing to remember during the application process is to relax. Stressing over acceptance letters will not make them get to you faster or have the result you want. Sending over 20 applications and making a crazy amount of campus visits will only stress you out during the final chapters of your high school career. Once in college you must take on more responsibility and will never have that carefree attitude that is promoted in high school. Take life one day at a time and enjoy.