The college admissions process can be daunting at times, but you can ease the stress by learning from those who went before you. College Confidential talked to six graduating seniors and asked what they wish they'd done differently during the process. See what their tips below while there is still time so to avoid making the same mistakes.
Don't get overwhelmed when you hear the stats of other students in your school – there's a lot more to your admissions story than the numbers – plus, there are people who lie about their numbers! I remember getting really stressed hearing about kids who said they got 34 or 35 on the ACT junior year, and then I later found out those kids actually got more like a 28 on the ACT. I don't know why everything is so competitive, but remember that not everyone is telling the truth, which makes it more confusing.
– Allison Midland, Ohio.
I wish I'd established closer relationships with more teachers. I knew a few teachers pretty well, but when it came time to ask for recommendationletters, it would have been nice to have had a lot more options so teachers could really talk about me in a more detailed way. The one teacher I knew the best – who would definitely have written a strong letter for me – ended up going out on sick leave before I had a chance to ask her for the letter, and then I was left with a few teachers from extracurriculars who knew me well and others who didn't know me well at all from core classes.
– J.T., Michigan.
I spent so much time during junior year stressed out about what everyone else was doing that I ended up writing a generic essay that allowed me to sound like everyone else. I thought so many of my classmates were the perfect U Maryland applicants that I tried to sound more like them in my essay, but I don't think it allowed me to show my individuality. If I had it to do over again, I would write the essay highlighting how my experiences were shaped by my differences rather than trying to convince the school that I was enough like everyone else to warrant my acceptance.
– T. Cromwell, Maryland.
I know everyone already says this all the time, but I wish I'd listened to the advice to start then process early – like summer before senior year early. If I'd started sooner, I wouldn't have made mistakes in my essay, and my rec letters would have been turned in on time. The deadlines came up on me faster than I expected and I sort of threw my applications together. I wish I'd had the time to have made them perfect.
– John Tanner, Florida.
My parents told me we could only afford in-state prices. I applied to only in-state schools and will be attending one. But a guy I know whose stats were about the same as mine got enough merit money at a private college out of state that it ended up being cheaper than the state school I'll be attending. I would much rather have left the state and wish I'd investigated some private school options where I may have gotten money.
– Erin F., South Carolina.
Almost every school has certain classes that they want you to take in high school before you attend their college. I didn't do enough research on what those were before applying. My stats lined up well with the stats that accepted students at my goal college had. But I only took three math classes in high school and this college required that all applicants take four. If I'd known that, I could have taken another but I applied with three maths and got denied.
– C.F., California.
A version of this article first appeared in April 2019.
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