College Application Advice You Don't Need to Take
The first real step to getting into college is applying to college.
For many, that can feel even more overwhelming than studying for the SAT. It makes perfect sense: While standardized tests can be retaken, these are applications that could set you off on your future path—and you really only have one shot per year.
Will you get accepted into your top choice school, or your next choice on the list? Find yourself in an entirely new city, or staying close to home? How about an arts-only program, or a school where you have a wider range of options? There's a lot on the table.
Naturally, you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed by the process and turn to people for advice on how to navigate it all. You may even find yourself getting mixed messages, or advice about the process that doesn't seem super sound. While everyone has a different approach to applying to college, here are a few pieces of advice you should skip.
1. "You Should Apply Early Decision to the Best School on Your List—Period"
Applying early decision means you are committing to attend that college should you get accepted. That means you can only pick one school to apply ED to, with the hope that making a commitment to the college of your choice will give you an edge over the regular pool of applicants. While it might make sense for people to suggest applying ED to the most difficult school to get into on your list to give yourself a boost, you should only use this application strategy if you are absolutely ready to attend that college. That means being financially prepared, as well as be willing to make whatever lifestyle change necessary to attend. Applying ED is not a place to take a chance on a reach school you're not sure will realistically work out for you.
2. "You Should Apply to At Least a Dozen Schools"
Word of warning: Applying to college is expensive, and applying to 12 or more schools can easily cost over $1,000. Even if money is not as much the issue for your family, applying to that many schools is time-consuming—and you may not put the thought and care into applications for the schools you really want to consider if you overwhelm yourself. There's no perfect number, but if you really can't imagine yourself at a school that's on your list, you may want to reevaluate whether you should bother applying.
3. "You Should Only Consider Four-Year Colleges"
It's easy to get swept up in the classic American definition of what a college experience means, and plenty of people will tell you that college at the University of Whatever was the highlight of their life. However, just because that's a great path for some doesn't mean it's right for you. If money is an issue, or if you're just not sure you are excited by the prospect of attending a four-year school, it's a great idea to look into community colleges or vocational programs as well. If you do decide to do community college, you can always transfer to a different school to get your Bachelor's Degree down the road.
4. "Apply Now, and Figure Out the Money Part Later"
It's true that you shouldn't automatically rule out a school just because it seems out of your college budget, as financial aid and merit-based scholarships are sometimes offered in your acceptance letter. However, you may also find that a school you assumed was way out of reach is more affordable thanks to specific scholarships the school offers. Some schools have specific scholarships carved out for students with unique life circumstances, choice of major or extracurricular activities. While it's not a guarantee you'll receive enough money to attend a school out of reach, doing a little bit of research beforehand may pleasantly surprise you.
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