Throughout high school and most especially during this time of year for senior students, high schoolers are asked the seemingly paramount question – where will you be attending college? From the academic advising office to the holiday dinner table to chatter among friends, this single question seems synonymous with high schoolers’ very own identity. For some, this question is welcomed with exciting anticipation for the college adventure to come while for others it serves as an endless reminder of the frightening unknown ahead. Whether the admissions process feels daunting or exciting, there are ways to optimize the experience, enabling you to shine throughout the application and ultimately gain insight throughout the journey! 

Tackle the application in phases  

Similar to any other major assignment, project, or event, it’s important to give yourself and your application the necessary time and space. The best way to do so is through breaking down the parts of the process into different stages. For example, start with a planning phase where you are able to create an organizational system for yourself. Begin with writing down the various deadlines. As a sucker for color coding, I suggest finding your favorite colored gel pens that will be there alongside you on your journey. It is also helpful to write down other commitments outside of the application process that may be occurring around the same time, allowing you to plan accordingly. During this initial planning phase, I see it as laying the blueprint for the process. With a sufficient amount of time before the application deadline, it can be helpful to categorize what you would like to achieve each month, week, and/or day that will ultimately assist you in achieving your goals. Perhaps starting with dedicating a few weeks to gather information both on potential colleges to apply to (while reminding yourself that you don’t have to have it figured out!) as well as information on yourself. Creating spreadsheets and lists allows you to categorize external research on colleges and requirements, as well as internal information pertaining to yourself throughout your entire high school career. This will greatly benefit you during the essay writing process. Other steps of the incremental process could include setting aside a specific amount of time for the background information section of the essay and obtaining letters of recommendation. Additionally, this incremental approach tends to be even more important during the essay writing phase. You want to leave time to receive several cycles of feedback from counselors or family as well as enable yourself to shape and mold each essay into what you hope to best convey, ultimately allowing you to hit that submit button with confidence and gratification. 

Connect with a high school and college counselors 

One of the most helpful pieces of advice is meeting regularly with high school counselors as well as reaching out to college counselors. If you don’t have access to a high school counselor, finding a teacher or administrator steeped in the knowledge and intricacies of the process – or can connect you with such an individual – is greatly beneficial. An advisor can assist you throughout the journey, serving both as a source of encouragement and accountability. Though sometimes missed, I found it to be very helpful to foster a relationship with your college admissions rep. This allows you to provide updates on achievements, gain a better sense of the institution, and feel known amid thousands of applications. Even if the school you are applying to doesn’t require interviews, I suggest inquiring about setting up a meeting or call with your college counselor. For me, I’ve found that more often than not, your high school and college counselors want to help you – don’t be afraid to use them as a valuable resource! 

Foster self-awareness

Though the process can feel overwhelming and time-sensitive, it’s important to remember that you are in the driver seat! Take time for yourself to intentionally take account of your goals, progress, and how you are personally doing. What do you want from this experience and how do you want it to unfold? As crazy as it sounds, the process can serve you beyond just your college application. Amid the experience, you can learn much about yourself, and you want to be able to have the space to recognize this development. Allow yourself the ability to maximize this time as an enlightening, engaging, and even, dare I say fun experience. With this renewed lens, you’ll be able to proceed with greater enrichment, fulfillment, and gratitude.   

Published by Madeline Kenney

Class of 2025 Hometown: Livonia, MI Majors: Biology and Business Minor: Classical Studies

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