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College Applications Season is Here…Here is How to Ace It

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Northwestern chapter.

Calling all high school seniors! It is that time. Trust me, I know. I was in your shoes last year. The college application process can be full of uncertainty and stress. Now that I have “been there, done that,” I would like to share some advice that may help you navigate this overwhelming, yet rewarding experience.

Start Early

Try to get your college applications submitted as soon as possible. Although waiting for responses can be slightly torturous, it feels great to not have deadlines hanging over your head. I know friends who scrambled to get everything submitted the day applications were due. Eliminate part of the stress by doing it ahead of time.

Be Authentic

Although you have probably heard this one before, being yourself in your applications is vital. Expressing your real voice, opinions, and preferences in all components of your writing helps you to stand out.

Do Your Research

Did you know that Northwestern has a Happiness Club? Vanderbilt has a 3-to-1 student-to-squirrel ratio? Emory has a week dedicated to a skeleton named Dooley? Fun, random facts like these—along with crucial facts about courses of study, professional opportunities, and more—will help reaffirm that you are interested in the places you are applying to. They show the admissions team that you are passionate about the school and really want to be there. 

Picture It

When you are deciding what colleges you want to apply to—and, later on, which college you want to attend—picture yourself at different places. Think about what it will be like getting to class, living in a dorm, eating at the dining hall and going out on the weekend. Try to visualize yourself throughout campus. If you can picture it, you may be thinking of the right place. If you cannot, think about why and what is not clicking for you.

Hash It Out

There is a lot to think about when applying to schools, and it is at a time when emotions are high. Do not go through the process alone. There are so many people who want to help and see you succeed. I always ranted to my parents about stress, to share my thoughts on different schools and to get advice. I also got connected with current students at the schools to which I was applying. Asking questions about their favorite or least favorite parts of the school, what classes are like, the social scene and more can bring great perspectives for consideration. Keep friends in the conversation—you are all in this together—and therapists too.

Go All In

When all is said and done, regardless of what the results are, it is reassuring to be able to say “I did the best that I could”. If you truly try your best on your application and you do not get accepted, the school was not meant to be and you will find a place who wants you and your awesome-ness. So take the time to edit your essays, reread everything, and get peer reviews.

Celebrate the Small Things

Applying to college is a big deal and a big process! When something positive happens, celebrate it—finishing your personal statement, submitting your first application, getting your first acceptance letter, etc. And, of course, have a big celebration for your final decision. All of your hard work deserves to be recognized. 

Now, take a deep breath. Everything will work out in the end. This process will feel like forever ago in no time. Here I am writing for one of my college’s publications, and less than a year ago I was writing my own college applications. You got this!

Madeleine Stern

Northwestern '25

Madeleine is studying journalism at Northwestern University. When she is not writing, she can be found exploring Chicago, trying new Evanston restaurants, going for runs along the Lakefill, dancing around her dorm room, cheering on the New York Giants, or spending time with her friends.