Applying to College? Our Top Tips for Getting It Done Without Losing Your Mind

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If you do a web search for “college admissions tips,” get prepared to be overwhelmed. There are a lot of people out there who have a lot to say about the college admissions process. And no, you probably won’t be able to read and digest every bit of advice out there about college admissions.

That’s okay.

If you’re thinking of applying to college, it’s a good idea to be familiar with what your top-choice schools are looking for, and how to wow them on your application. And in addition, here are our top 5 general tips for selecting and applying to the best school for you. But remember—every school is different.

1. Start early. Even if you think you already know where you want to go to college, it’s important to start the overall search and application process early. Not only does it take a great deal of organization, but you’ll also need to allot time to request letters of recommendation, craft a killer essay, and make sure details like test scores arrive in time. Believe us—you don’t want to be rushed through any of this. It’s a big decision that warrants some initial planning before your senior year.

2. Choose a range of schools for your applications. By “range,” we’re talking about several things. First is degree of competitiveness. You want to have a selection of “long shot” schools, “safety” schools, and those that fall in the middle. But you also want to consider other factors, such as financial aid. Be sure to pick at least some schools that offer scholarships.

3. Consider fit rather than name. It’s natural to be concerned with how your chosen school sounds to other people. There are brand-names when it comes to colleges, just like clothing. But just as every new fashion trend isn’t a fit for everyone, not every prestigious school is a fit for every student. Sure, Yale may sound impressive, but does the idea of a long cold winter make you nervous? NYU sounds cool too, but are you comfortable in an urban environment? How about class size or extracurricular opportunities? You’ll ultimately be happier with your choice if you pay attention to all these factors. For more on school fit, read this article.

4. Keep track of the other deadlines, too. Let’s say you’ve got all your applications in, and you’re sitting pretty until the time comes to find out where you’ve been accepted. Good for you! But don’t kick back just yet. If you’re planning to apply for scholarships or aid from your selected schools, be sure you know when those deadlines are as well. The degree of financial help you’re awarded may impact your decision, and you don’t want to miss the boat!

5. Visit if you can. Feeling lost among all the admissions’ websites and those enormous dictionary-sized reference books in your school’s college office? Visiting a school in person can tell you more than a book or website ever could. Of course, it may not be financial feasible to visit all the schools on your list, or even more than just one. But try to pick your top choice and see it in person so you can do a gut-check. Can you imagine yourself there?

There’s an abundance of information out there on college admissions. Be sure to visit your school’s career office or your guidance counselor for more information.  And check out these additional articles and resources:

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