Just about a year ago I was in the position most of you readers are now. However, in about 3 hours I will be leaving for my first semester at Boston University.
I remember the countless hours spent on here, worrying about my chances, posting my stats, etc, etc.
And now that the college admissions experience is officially over, I thought I would make a helpful thread for Juniors and Seniors starting the process.
In this thread I will discuss my personal experiences, and tips/secrets to the process that will hopefully make your life easier. I will go in chronological order!
Normally, the first part of the college admissions process is taking the SAT. In essence, you can not really start compiling a list of schools that you may like to attend until you take the SAT, because reality is your SAT score will affect which schools are worth your time applying to.
First and foremost, this test CAN BE mastered! I am in no sense of the word a genius. My problem solving skills are average at best, and I was never a great test taker. However, with proper preparation the SAT can be one of the most formulaic and predictable tests you will ever take. To do well it is IMPERATIVE that you practice. I only recommend two forms of studying: vocab and practice tests. Vocab for the critical reading section, and practice tests to understand the structure of the test. I took about 20 practice tests. By the end of the doing them, I MASTERED the structure, and could basically do most of the problems without reading the full question. I was able to finish the writing section, which is the most formulaic part of the sat, in about half the time given.
Do not fear the SAT, but do not take it lightly. It is important, but not make or break to your college admissions. With proper practice, you can succeed!
Narrowing down your choices
Far too often do I see on this site people having HUMONGOUS lists of college choices. Ranging from MIT to Harvard to Princeton. College is about what fits you. I can tell you right now that going to a college purely because of the name will not benefit you. Once you start visiting colleges, and realizing that you will be living on the campus for 4 years minimum, you will realize there are many other things to consider than the school's prestige.
- Define whether you want a city or suburban campus. My mother always put it, do you want a "green" campus or a "streety" campus.
- Find schools that offer your major. Do NOT go to a school if it does not have your major, even if it has the "name brand" value.
- Once you decided on a campus type, and found a list of schools that offer your interested major, compare your stats to the required stats. Does your SAT sit within the realm of what they want? What about your GPA? Read the schools mission statement. Do you agree with it???
Personal experience: I applied to 4 schools. I knew I wanted a city. Boston University, Northeastern, University of Chicago, and Upenn (Wharton). To most of your surprise, most likely, I got into all four. Yes, I turned down UChicago and Wharton for Boston University.
Upenn was too close to home. It was about a 40 minute drive. Yes, it was an ivy, and it had more prestige. But the area was yucky and it was not far away. Chicago, I just didn't like the campus. So I chose BU. I absolutely love Boston, and I never thought about applying to Harvard or MIT. One because I hated math (MIT), and two because I didn't think I could get into Harvard. Upenn was a reach, but I did get in.
My point is, pick a school that FITS your personality and your academic abilities. You will be miserable if the school you ultimately decide to go to does not meet BOTH requirements.
Applying to college is very stressful. My rule of thumb was to designate an hour every other night to start college applications. Reason why: it is a long, tedious process that you really start to hate. Spacing out your time and starting it early is the easiest, most stress free way of handling it.
There really isn't too much to say about the application regarding stats, other than don't lie. Every school requires a transcript, so don't inflate your grades. That will not turn out well.
As for the essays, these are important. I will continue to be one of the biggest advocators for writing about whatever the hell you want to write about. DO NOT let anyone on here tell you a topic is too cliche, or not deep enough to be a successful college essay. I wrote about one of the most cliche topics in the world: my grandma.
Everyone on here said "no, don't write about that. its too cliche". I wrote about it. And I can tell you truthfully, it was a kick @ss essay. Why? IT WAS WELL WRITTEN. In fact, I received grant money specifically for my college essay. My point: ANYTHING can be a winning essay topic. It all comes down to how well written it is. Good writing trumps everything. If you have a topic in mind, give it a whirl.
ECs: Your ecs are important. So important that they can offset bad grades. You know how I know? I applied to 4 pretty great schools with a 3.6 gpa. People on here told me my chances were next to none for wharton, Uchicago, and other great schools that I ultimately did not apply to. However, my ecs were kick butt.
My tips for this is that you want to include ecs that show you are truly a well rounded person. the secret about college admissions is they LOVE to see leadership, dedication, and good character. Meaning don't put an ec on your application that you did for one year and quit just to make the list longer. the truth of the matter is that would most likely hurt your chances more than help. really think about your ecs, and which ones helped shape your character. these are the ones that help the most, and ones that really made you who you are shine through to the admissions office.
When the common app asks you to expand on one, really put your heart and soul into that section and explain why that ec above all the other ones make you a great candidate for the schools you are applying to.
I can not stress enough how important the representation of your ecs are...possibly more so than the ecs themselves.
After sending in your application:
Here is something that happens to just about everyone. They send in their application, look it over, and GASP****find a mistake. I found 4. Yes, 4. I remember all four in detail actually. One forgotten word in my essay, one date inaccuracy, one forgotten period, and one misspelled word. I almost had a heart attack.
WHEN this happens to you. (not if). Take a deep breath, and realize it is okay. College admissions people are not looking perfect people. Everyone makes mistakes.They know that. Just remember that you are one in most likely a million (hyperbole?).
I will continue this section after I get a bit of sleep, if people find it helpful. Until then, any questions send me a personal message and Id be glad to help!