April 1, 2019
This is the first article in College Confidential's new feature where we share the admissions journey from the student's perspective. If you'd like to share your SAT, ACT or admissions experience, let us know! Contact information is at the bottom of this article.
Everyone has ups and downs in their college admissions process, but I am sharing my story because I think it had more "downs" than the standard and I want to pass along what I could have done differently. Hopefully it can help guide some students who are just starting out or have some confusion about how the process should work. As an introduction to my situation, I am currently finishing my senior year of high school, and I've already gotten decisions from most of the six colleges where I applied.
I took the SAT early in my junior year, with plans to use that as a baseline and then study a little bit, and then take it one or two more times. This was the strategy that I learned at the free college admissions seminar I attended at my high school, which was basically the only information I had about admissions when I started the process. My parents didn't go to college and I am the oldest of my siblings. My high school is a large public school where I don't get much face to face time with my counselor.
I was surprised to find out that I got a 1480 on that first SAT test. That was pretty far above the average at the six colleges that were on my list, so I decided I didn't need to take it again. Following are the colleges that were on my list.
- Virginia Tech
- Penn State
- University of Delaware
- North Carolina State
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- University of Maryland
I often get asked how I created my college list, so I'll share that as well. First, I should mention that I get in-state tuition in every state due to my parents' military service. In addition, my parents only wanted me to apply to schools within a certain radius of where they live so travel expenses won't be that high. I visited quite a few schools and the ones above are the ones I liked the best, so that's how I selected them.
Although I could have applied in the early round at the colleges on my list, I decided to wait until Christmas break to send out my applications. I worked full-time during the summer before my senior year of high school, and then I had a crazy schedule fall of senior year. So I set aside Christmas break for my applications, and I was able to submit everything before I went back to school in January. As I'm sure my fellow applicants would agree, I was glad to be done with everything!
I received login details for all of my application portals and I logged into all of them once or twice to make sure my applications had been received. I contacted my counselor about sending my transcripts, and then I basically dove into my new semester of high school.
Around the second week of February, I got an email from one of the schools. (From this point forward, I'm not going to name the specific schools that notified/didn't notify me because I am on the waitlist at one school and I don't want to reveal my decision details). The email was to notify me to check my portal "immediately." When I did so, I found that the school had not received my SAT scores. I immediately felt a feeling of panic and checked all of my other portals to find that NONE of the schools had received my SATs. And after some investigation, I discovered the reason: I never sent them.
Long story short, I thought that when I took the SAT back in the fall of my junior year, I had filled out the form to send my SATs to the schools automatically. It turned out that at the last minute, I'd decided not to do that in case my scores weren't as high as I'd hoped. But in the time span between my SAT and my applications (over a year), I had forgotten that detail and the schools never received them, and it was my fault.
The next day, I contacted every school and told them what happened, and said I'd be sending the scores that day. One school said that I was too late. The other five said I could send them but they essentially said they couldn't guarantee anything. So I paid the rush price and had the SATs sent, and started the process of being extremely stressed. At the time of this writing, I have received at least one acceptance, at least one denial and a waitlist decision -- plus, I still have a decision yet to arrive. So as I wait for final word, I wanted to pass along my two cents for students who are planning applications for next fall.
My biggest tip is to start early. If I hadn't waited until January to apply, I may not have felt so crunched for time and it's possible that I wouldn't have made this careless mistake of forgetting to send my SATs. Trying to cram six applications into a 10-day school break was not my smartest idea. I think part of the issue was that my 1480 SAT gave me a false sense of security in how my decisions would turn out, but that may have hurt me later, because I applied late, didn't follow up and didn't check my portals carefully.
Although it's really important to focus on schoolwork senior year, you should also closely watch your application process and not treat it like an afterthought. I definitely would have changed a lot of things about how I handled my admissions if I could, so I hope other students learn from my mistakes. Good luck with your applications and remember to start early and follow up!
Alex Ricci is a high school senior who plans to major in English.
If you'd like to share details of your admissions journey on College Confidential, please write to us here.
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