As you’re starting the college application process (if you haven’t already, you overachievers), most people will be telling you one thing: what college you should go to.
Like Rory Gilmore of Gilmore Girls, you may have your heart set on Harvard, but your grandparents are pressuring you to go to Yale. Okay, we all can’t be Rory and have to decide between Harvard and Yale, but you get the point.
Once you start filling out those applications, everyone will tell you where you should spend the best four years of your life. But what aren’t these people telling you?
Luckily for you, Her Campus is telling you the 10 things no one told you about applying to college, so you’ll be even more prepared to make your decision by the time you’ve received all of those acceptance letters.
10. The application process can put a strain on friendships and relationships.
Yes, even though you and your best friends compare yourselves to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, applying to college can hurt even the best sisterhoods. Some of you may stress out about the process while others don’t, one of you may get into your dream school and another doesn’t, and you may be able to pay for college even though your BFF can’t. A number of situations like these can affect a friendship, and honestly, some friendships end when high school does. But as Brandeis University collegiette Asya Bashina says, “The ones that do stick around will be your close friends.”
As you’re applying to colleges, make sure you and your friends agree to be supportive of each other, no matter what happens. And if you do get into an argument over schools, talk to each other about it. Applying to college is a sensitive subject, and some people may not realize when they’ve hit a nerve. “I had one friend who, when I told her I was applying to Yale just to see if I would get in, told me I was not Yale material, just Cornell material, and I actually cried,” says Northwestern student Katherine Mirani. “We talked about it after everything was over and both realized how messed up the whole thing was. She had no idea that she was saying something offensive, and I should have seen the comment for the college-crazed mishap it was and let it go.”
If you’re in a relationship, talk to your boyfriend about what colleges you’re applying to. What will happen to your relationship if you get into a school that he doesn’t, or vice versa? Communication is key during the college admissions process. If you and those close to you can get through the college application process, as well as the actual transition to college, then you can pretty much survive anything.
9. Labels stop mattering after high school.
While who’s popular, who’s a braniac, and so on may dominate most of your thoughts in high school, you should know these labels stop mattering after graduation. Why is it important to know this as you’re applying to college? Because you shouldn’t feel like you have to compete with your classmates to get into the best schools. During my senior year, I was accepted and almost went to a great school that not many people had heard of. I ended up going to a better-known school, and even though I have grown to love it, I think the lesser-known school would’ve been the best fit for me. If you apply to schools that not many people have heard of or ones that are labelled as “easy” to get into, be proud of that. Going to college is a great achievement no matter what school it is. Just because others may not see what’s so great about a school doesn’t mean it isn’t the best place for you.
8. Your dream school may change.
Just like Rory, who had dreamed of going to Harvard only to discover she loved Yale more, your dream school may change as you’re going through the application process. While some of you may accept this decision with open arms, others of you may be hesitant about this sudden change of heart. How can you change your mind when you have been set on one school for your entire life?! Don’t worry – it’s going to be okay. This happens, and if you really fall in love with another school, don’t question yourself or be afraid to change your mind.
USC collegiette Rebecca Buddingh had planned on going to Boston University since her freshman year of high school, but once she received an acceptance letter, she realized she didn’t want to leave her home state of California. “I decided that my new ‘dream school’ was USC, and the day I got in was one of the best days of my life!” Rebecca says. “I'm incredibly happy that I changed my mind my second semester of senior year!” As Rebecca found out, it’s never too late to change your mind about what school is best for you.
7. If you don’t get into your dream school, it’s not the end of the world.
Your best friend got into the school you’ve been dying to go to since you were three years old, and you didn’t. Go ahead – have a good cry. But after you’ve used up three boxes of tissues and eaten four pints of Ben & Jerry’s, pick yourself back up and come up with a new plan. This has happened to many collegiettes, and while it’s not the ideal situation, sometimes it turns out to be for the best. As you look into other schools, you may realize you like another school better than your dream school. Or it may actually take attending another school for you to realize that your dream school wasn’t for you after all.
Bucknell University collegiette Cameron Simcik says she thought her life was over when she was waitlisted at Boston College, but she eventually found that Bucknell was the best place for her. “I’m so glad I didn’t get into BC, because I now realize it wouldn’t have been a good fit!” Cameron says. “I always try and tell people to keep an open mind when it comes to colleges because you never know where you’re meant to be!”
6. Always (we repeat: ALWAYS) apply to multiple safety schools.
So you’ve applied to Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton and Brown. You’re bound to get into one, right? Not necessarily. No matter how high of a GPA you have, always apply to a few safety schools (schools that you are likely get into) in case those Ivy Leagues or other top tier schools send rejection letters. And by a few, we don’t mean just one – you aren’t guaranteed a spot at a safety school, either. Apply to two or three safety schools just to be safe, but don’t apply to the first three you can think of. Take a break from decorating your room with Harvard memorabilia and do some research to find safety schools you like and could see yourself attending. Even if these schools aren’t your dream schools, it’s better to have them to fall back on than to have nowhere to go.
5. Senior grades DO matter.
After you’ve applied, your grades don’t matter anymore … right? Wrong! Colleges have caught on to students who think they can stop doing homework after those applications have been sent in, and many now require you to send in your final grades after you’ve been wait-listed or accepted. “The number one thing that I didn’t realize when I was applying to college was that senior grades do count,” says Lauren Ruvo. “I was wait-listed at Boston College (my number one school) and would constantly send them updates about my grades as well as any awards I won towards the end of the year. Fortunately, I got off the waitlist and am starting my second year here. I am so grateful that I kept my grades up senior year, but I wouldn’t have thought it would be as important as it was.”
You may think you deserve to skip the Shakespeare and catch up on Gossip Girl, but you need to keep your grades up after you’ve applied – or risk having your acceptance rescinded. While UNC-Chapel Hill student Meghan didn’t have her acceptance revoked from UNC-CH, she did get a scary reminder senior year about how important her grades were. “I was pulling a C in AP Physics senior year and got a letter from UNC saying if I didn’t fix it, they would revoke my acceptance. It scared me into keeping my grades up.” Yes, it can be difficult to keep up the motivation in the face of senioritis, but we promise you it’s worth it.
4. Consider Early Decision II.
You’ve probably heard of early decision and early action, but have you heard of early decision II? This option, provided by some colleges, is similar to early decision in that if you are accepted, it is a binding agreement. The difference is that you apply later than early decision (December or January) and receive a decision later (usually in early February). Applying early decision II is great in that it gives you more time to research and visit schools and make sure the school you’re applying to is your first choice. As with early decision and early action, early decision II allows you to hear back from a college earlier than if you applied at the regular time, and as a result, you will most likely have the college application process over with sooner. More time to party, right? Just kidding – see tip #5.
3. Your parents will probably be more involved than you think they will be.
Let’s face it: Our parents raised us and are in our lives – whether or not we like it. Even though you are so close to freedom, you’re still living with your parents and are following their rules. Because your parents are so involved in your everyday life, they will also be involved in your application process – every step of the way. Your dad may want you to apply to his alma mater, or your mom may want you to apply to the school where she always dreamed of going. Yes, they can be annoying, but your parents can also be helpful. Whether they are paying for college or are trying to show you what schools are out there, just remember they are trying to help you. Take a deep breath and smile every time they remind you about application deadlines or essays, and make sure to be patient. The application process is already stressful, and the more impatient you are with your parents, the more difficult it’s going to be.
2. You may doubt yourself and everything you have done in high school.
As you fill out your college applications, you may think that the Spanish club and the school play aren’t enough to get you accepted. “Applying to college definitely made me doubt myself,” says Katherine from Northwestern. “I started applying, and then I started thinking that I hadn’t done enough in high school and that everyone else did way more activities and took way more honors classes and were just generally way more awesome than me. It was stupid because I had already done everything I could do, so what was the point of doubting myself?”
Don’t stress out and make your four years of hard work seem meaningless. Everyone has different strengths and interests, and it’s important to play up what makes you unique. Sure, you may only have one club to put on your application, but maybe you became the president – this does not go unnoticed. So don’t waste time feeling down about yourself; as Katherine says, “You should focus on how fantastic you are, so you can explain it well in the applications.”
1. No matter what, this is your decision.
As we said, the one thing people will tell you over and over again as you’re applying to schools is what college you should go to. While this advice can be helpful and make you look into a school you otherwise wouldn’t have, remember to apply to and choose the school you love the most. You are the one who will be attending this school for the next four years, so make sure you love it. It can be easy to say you will do this, but it can be harder to do once acceptance letters arrive. No matter what people tell you, your opinion is the one that matters the most. Shut everyone and all of their expectations out when it comes time to make a decision. Even if you choose a school your parents or friends initially don’t like, they will most likely come to love it as much as you do.
Luckily you have a few months to go, but it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time for the possibility of having to make a tough decision. Applying to college is certainly not easy, but these tips will get you ready to complete those applications and make your decision with confidence. So turn off the TV, put on some Taylor Swift (who else better understands the pain of having to make a tough decision?), and start outlining those application essays. Just don’t write about Taylor Swift – unless you have something really insightful to say.