College Go-to Guide From a Senior
How to REALLY get into college & what people aren’t telling you
The college process is a difficult one, because it’s something no one understands until they’ve been through it. Everyone thinks there is a clear-cut way to get into the college of your dreams – get stellar test scores, be super involved at school and in your community, and get outstanding grades. But what people won’t tell you – probably because the college criteria changes from year-to-year, so people just don’t know – is that there’s a lot more to receiving that letter of acceptance.
I’m currently at the end of my senior year and just went through the entire college process – three years of hard work to build my college qualifications as a student, filling out an endless stack of applications at the start of senior year, then awaiting the arrival of colleges’ decisions. After going through that messy and stressful process, there are some things that I hadn’t expected with the eventual outcome. *Disclaimer: Obviously, I don’t know everything and I’m not trying to come across that I do. I’m simply stating the things that surprised me when reflecting on the process, and things I learned.*
Here’s a list of all the discoveries made throughout my college process:
Test scores and grades aren’t everything. I’m not saying they aren’t important, but they definitely aren’t everything. Of course, a college’s board of admissions doesn’t know its applicants personally, and the only way the board will understand what kind of student they’re dealing with and if they can handle the level of curriculum at their university is by looking at an applicant’s grades and test scores. But, they want to see that there’s more to you than just letters and numbers on a page. Besides, there’s plenty of kids who technically should get into a school because of their test score or their GPA, who shockingly get rejected.
Find something that sets you apart. I know plenty of people who did everything they were supposed to and seemed perfectly qualified to get into a school, only to receive a spot on the waitlist or a rejection from that school. I think it’s because they were well-rounded students, but they didn’t show their dedication and success in a particular area or subject.
Colleges are receiving thousands upon thousands of applications, thousands of which belong to students who all have the amazing test scores and the phenomenal grades. Because of that, they’re going to look at what makes you different from all the rest, what makes you someone they must admit to their school.
If you’re passionate about engineering, they want to see the projects you’ve worked on and the leadership roles you’ve held in that area to show that you have ambition and passion for engineering.
For me, I was an athlete for three years. I found a sport I loved and, while many of my classmates worked hard inside and outside of the classroom, I worked hard in the classroom and worked hard in my sport outside of the classroom. Because of that, I got recruited to a college I might not have been able to get into otherwise. That being said, I still had to have certain grades and test scores to show I could handle an education at that university. So, basically, I’m saying find something you’re passionate about and makes you stand out from all the other applicants, but still work hard in the classroom to show you’re a qualified student.
Don’t stress out too much. I know college is a stressful reality that seems to always be looming in the not-so-distant future, but something I’ve learned from my four years is that high school goes by in a flash, and really, it’s your last phase of childhood. Once you graduate and leave high school, you’re entering the early stages of adulthood. So, enjoy the freedom of being a teenager and, as stressful as school can be, try to take a step back and appreciate the people and moments in your life. Besides, once you enter your career, no one really looks at where you went to college anyway; people judge you by your work ethic and character, not by your education.
Having learned these things throughout the college process and the entirety of my high school experience, I don’t think there’s really anything I would change, but I know some of my classmates wish they had worried less about where they were going or had spent less time stressing over schoolwork and more time enjoying the time they had left. College is an exciting reality, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t end up going to your dream school or even if you end up not going to college. So, take time to develop who you are as a person and figuring out what you want and what you can contribute to the world; that’s what will make you a well-rounded person overall, and a great candidate when it comes to college.