The hysteria following the college admissions process starts freshmen year. All of a sudden, students are told that most colleges want to see them taking the highest level of classes offered, and an unwavering A average. As a freshman, going to college seems in the distant future. But as the years tick by, students find that by the time they are juniors, their lives are fairly chaotic. Standardized test prep, and a seemingly unbearable amount of homework. During the first semester of senior year, students finalize and send their applications. By late December, some already know what school they’ll be going to. In March, regular decision applicants hear back from their schools. It feels as though all of high school as led up to this; students have all their decisions back and now have colleges to choose from until May 1st, when all schools require a deposit to be put down if you are attending. So, now what?
The first step students should take is to visit schools they are seriously considering. Accepted students days run from February through April, usually giving students multiple days to come and see the college. It is important to actually visit because the school could project a completely different vibe online versus on campus. Accepted students days have information sessions that students and parents can attend, and also give high school students opportunities to ask currently enrolled undergraduates questions about the school. Accepted students days can confirm two things. One, that this school is the place that you want to spend your next four years. Two, that you would rather spend your college career anywhere but here.
An important question to ask yourself that can narrow down your search greatly is what part of the country you’d like to live in. Would you rather be close to home, or are you okay with being a plane ride away? If you’ve always wanted to experience a city like Boston or Miami, choosing a school in that area is a way to branch out and experience new things. However, there is nothing wrong with wanting to stay a driving distance away from home. “I only applied to schools on the east coast because I knew I didn’t want to take a plane to come home,” explains senior Grace McLaughlin. Geography is an important aspect of deciding on a college since there are so many great schools. A lot of school that you will apply to will most likely be somewhat similar, and location could be a tiebreaker in some cases.
Make sure schools you’re considering have most of the things you want or need. It doesn’t have to be a school that’s based on just your major, such as a film school or fashion institute, unless you know that you only want to study a certain subject. But, the college you choose should also have the kind of environment, both academic and social, that you know you’ll thrive in. It helps to talk to current students at accepted students days, as mentioned above, and even find websites online, such as Niche.com, that gives in-depth reviews of schools and what life is typically like around campus.
The most important thing to keep in mind? As stated above, students ultimately end up at the school that’s right for them. No school is perfect, and there is not just one school out there for everyone. For some students, the image of a seemingly perfect school changes throughout the admission and decision process. “I thought a certain school was right for me, but I ended up not getting in,” a senior girl says. “But it worked out because now I realize that there are more schools out there, and what I saw as the ‘perfect’ school isn’t the place for me. I wouldn’t have seen that if I had gotten in.” All colleges have their positive and negatives aspects, as does every other entity and institution. Even if on May 1st you’re doubting your decision, trust the fact that it won’t make an impact on you whether you go to a prestigious school or one that not many people have heard of. It’s very likely that everyone will have similar experiences and graduate with degrees within those four years.
Annie Probert & Grace McLaughlin
Graphic: Erin Kim