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Column: What to expect when you're applying: A high school senior's guide to surviving the college application process
by Caroline Vanstrom
October 11, 2012 04:05 PM | 3686 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
College is supposed to be the best four years of a person’s life — at least that is what people continue to tell me. What people forget to share is how intricate the entire college application process really is. College Board and The Princeton Review provide a blueprint to begin the college selection process, but after organizing one's blueprints there are still a multitude of steps waiting to be completed in order to ultimately receive a decision letter from a college.

That's why I want to address parents and students alike in hopes of sharing some helpful information to make the college admissions process a bit less daunting.

1) I would like to reinforce the role English teachers have in the application process. English teachers’ careers focus on literature, writing and comprehension — pretty helpful for one of the most prominent pieces of the application: the essay. The college essay exists as a personal and creative piece of the application that helps persuade the college of a student’s dreams to send an acceptance letter. Now, this may cause an unhealthy amount of stress but rest assured there is a helpful person just waiting to grab a hold of a student's essay and make the necessary revisions. Yes, this person is indeed the English teacher. My AP Literature and Composition teacher at Roswell High School incorporated our college essays into the first couple weeks of the semester and my essay would have been a disaster without her. After bringing in three different essays, my teacher cured my fickle mind and helped me select and revise what was to become my college essay. Students should realize that the English teacher’s goal is to ultimately see the student succeed.

2) Time seems to be speeding up as each day passes, so try to leave enough time to thoroughly complete all components of the application. To be clear, I do not advocate planning a college path during freshman year of high school, nor do I recommend rushing to finish an application the night before the deadline hits. The first extreme is somewhat pointless because of how much students evolve in their four years of high school. From personal experience, the college I had been so set on attending since the beginning of high school has slowly taken a backseat as I broaden my scope and discover new and interesting universities I could attend. Just make sure to study hard, strive for grades that reflect your potential, join clubs and become more involved in school life, it will pay off by your senior year. Create a college calendar, know the deadlines and start organizing everything at the beginning of senior year. An indication of a starting date is the release of the Common Application — used by most private universities — which is available around Aug. 1 every year.

3) Some schools, specifically those who link themselves to the Common Application, require students to complete supplements in addition to the already-lengthy application. There is nothing that can be done to shorten the process of lengthy applications except for sparing enough time to complete it all. The day I finished filling in my Common Application I wanted to throw myself a party; however I remembered shortly after that the supplements from each school were still smirking at me in a separate box itching to be filled out. I want to stress the importance of sending both the Common Application and the supplement of the individual college together because a college will not review a student for the university without both parts. Just be meticulous about everything before hitting the send button or passing the envelope through the mailbox and know exactly what the college needs from your application.

4) The mere mention of standardized tests receives groans and frustration from most students. Like the supplements colleges require, the SAT and ACT cannot be bypassed, so you may as well prepare and make the best scores you can muster.

5) Remember to breathe. I am still in the middle of this process and I will not make my final decision until April, so I have a long journey ahead, but I have told myself that ridiculous amounts of stress will not help. The college application process is a difficult one but if students stay focused, remain organized and actively communicate with their teachers, counselors and parents everything will be all right and students will end up where they need to be.
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