By Trey Razanauskas
As someone who has gone through the college application process, I can safely say that it is a stressful situation. Even though both of my parents and siblings went to college and were able to help me along the way, it is still a difficult undertaking. It can be much harder for those without a plethora of resources at their disposal. Here are some tips and advice for anybody feeling overwhelmed by the college application process.
- Take Small Steps – Thinking about applying, getting accepted, and matriculating can be extremely daunting. Break things down into small steps that can easily be accomplished. Instead of focusing on challenging, vague goals, focus on completing a bunch of small, simple tasks. Instead of making your goal “get into a college,” do things like “email my guidance counselor,” “set up a CollegeBoard account,” or “create a list of schools I might be interested in.” This will help make the process more manageable.
- Stay Informed – Do preliminary research for the schools of interest. Look up their acceptance rates, financial aid, application due dates, locations, housing, etc. This can usually all be done online and the information is typically easily accessible. Also look into the due dates for things like Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) and student loan opportunities.
- Do ACT/SAT Prep – If you are looking at schools that require an ACT/SAT score, make sure you study and put yourself in a position to succeed. These scores can help ensure your acceptance and can help you get more money through merit scholarships. Even just a little bit of studying every week can have a huge impact.
- Look For Aid – One of the biggest downsides to college is its price tag, however, there are many opportunities for financial aid. FAFSA is a need-based government program that offers money to students for higher education. Many students are able to go to college thanks to FAFSA who otherwise wouldn’t be able to, so don’t write off college before seeing what type of aid you qualify for. Outside of FAFSA, there are many scholarship opportunities for students. A lot of scholarships target specific groups of people like: first-gen students, students of color, low income students, musically inclined students, and many more.
- Apply, Apply, Apply – Put yourself out there as much as possible; you never know what will happen. Apply to a wide range of schools and scholarships. While some schools have application fees, these are typically waived for students who have financial need. Scholarship applications do take time, but they can have great payoffs in the range of $250-$1,000. Some are even more! Also, make sure to apply for FAFSA. In general, the more you apply, the greater chances you will find a good fit for a feasible price.
- Seek Help – Ask family, friends, teachers, and counselors for help when needed. Most people can provide assistance in some way whether it be helping with editing essays, applications, or even SAT and ACT prep books. When roadblocks come up, reach out to someone who can help. This is a long and difficult process, but you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at any point along the way.
- Be Confident – This is always a good thing to keep in mind but especially when applying for schools. Confidence will help you with your applications, essays, and interviews. Don’t be afraid to apply to prestigious colleges, either. Schools are looking for a wide range of students with different strengths. If you’ve made it to the college application process, you’re already well on your way. Keep up your hard work and believe in yourself!