Welcome back to the third edition of my college admissions process!
Last month, I submitted the National College Match application, requested letters of recommendation, applied for a local scholarship, and ranked colleges.
This month, I visited Columbia University and Tufts University: two different environments. This gave me insight on my ability to thrive in and preference on my future surroundings/lifestyle, curriculum, and opportunities. I highly recommend applying to Fly-In programs and visiting!
On October 18th, I got the good news that I was selected as a QuestBridge Finalist!
Within two weeks, I cranked out supplemental essays for 5 selective schools, completed FAFSA and the CSS Profile, sent my scores and transcript, and completed my Common App. By the end, I realized that I had written 3 essays in 10 different ways. It was not a happy time.
Before you continue with my advice for completing supplements, filing FAFSA, sending materials, and writing essays, remember: start this college application process ASAP – 9th grade? 9th grade.
Completing Supplement Essays
While research on colleges is vital to writing a convincing response, visiting the college is better. The atmosphere washes over you, you notice the tendencies of attending students in your interactions with them, and students offer first-hand advice including what they wish they would have known at the time they applied. In addition, what is on the college’s website might not realistically reflect where the attention of the student body goes most.
However, if visiting is not an option here is
what I recommend what I did:
I decided which factors influenced whether or not I was applying. I largely kept the weather/climate out because colleges cannot take credit for that, but they can take credit for the academic excellence, opportunities available, social events, etc.
Primarily, see if a college has the major that you are interested in. If you are applying undecided, it will be more difficult than if you were to choose a major or program that even mildly interests you.
Then, decide whether you would like a structured curriculum or a more open curriculum like Brown University. If you’re in STEM, look at the Humanity and Arts courses that are required of you. Look at how many of your classes or campus activities offer hands-on experience versus lecture.
Determine whether a big school or a small school would be best for you. Determine if you are more competitive or collaborative (some schools have Deans Lists where the top students are recognized depending on GPA and have some advantages while others do not have any merit perks.)
There are more factors like location (big city/small town), Return on Investment (where are grads going?), class size, demographics for ethnic and racial diversity, Student Clubs offered, undergrad opportunities (like research), international study, sports, dining options, and most importantly, financial aid.
In my responses, I discussed where that school fit and how it excelled in each of the areas. I tied in my current involvement in school to how I hoped to continue it in college. Honestly, the biggest piece of advice is to rely on which aspects of the school excite you and how can that university enrich your character and education.
Research is largely online based, but phoning the offices, visiting campus, reading blogs, and even joining meme chats/groups for that college can sometimes be helpful.
FAFSA takes less time than the CSS Profile (2 hours if you’re carefully reading and filling in information) and even less if you are using the IRS Data Retrieval tool. If you did not use the IRS Data Retrieval tool, you will likely have to submit additional materials to the school upon acceptance to be considered for financial aid. Try to get this out of the way as soon as it opens.
This is a much more thorough form of the FAFSA, and some schools ask school-specific questions like “how many cars does your family own.” Leave about 4 hours to complete this, from sign up to submit, especially if you are sending this to multiple schools. After this, some schools require materials to be uploaded to IDOC. Because it takes 2-3 days between steps to process your information and link it to your SSN, it is important to start this early as well.
Again, leave more than a week before the deadline to submit ACT, SAT, AP scores because it takes time to process and send these orders. Likewise, digital transcripts via Parchment take 3 days total (varies depending on the size of your high school and administration) from the time of request to delivery because it takes time for Parchment to reach out to your school for that document too.
Initially, I tried to include my whole life story in my Common App essay, but I decided instead on one event/cause that belonged in the category of “what problem would you like to solve.” This delivered a more well structured and powerful essay. Based on the feedback I received, the more specific details you can include and the more comprehensive your essay is, the better. As always, have a peer or teacher proofread this essay and comment.
While writing, ask yourself, “If I had no clue about the ending or the surroundings at the time of this event, does this sentence make sense?” in order to be able to deliver an essay that conveys the message you want.
For Halloween, I can certainly say that I was a high school senior because “college applications are spooky.”
November is for interviewing (possibly), strengthening my grades, getting extra shut-eye, and writing thank you’s. Now is the time to stack up on scholarships.
Stay for next month’s edition on what to do after you’ve applied!