Listen up juniors!

Here's what to expect next year when applying to college

Isabelle Muller, Reporter

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This is a warning letter to college-bound juniors. If you thought your senior year would be an easy ride, you are mistaken. You have a new task to take up most of your time, college applications.

When asked what they wish they knew before starting this whole process, the first things most Waterford High School seniors said was that it is much more time-consuming than they expected.

Senior Matt McKinzie stated, “From the way things were made out to be, it seemed like getting into college was something that would be a quarter one task, and the rest of senior year would be enjoyable and smooth-sailing. While senior year has been enjoyable and not as stressful as past years, the college process is still something that is continuing on to this very day.”

This was a common sentiment among seniors. Alicia Labrecque said, “I thought that I was going to be doing a little research, stumbling on the college of my dreams, and then writing an amazing college essay that got me in. The actual process was much longer and more frustrating.”

The sooner juniors start considering applications, the better. It would be advisable to have visited schools and have the Common Application filled out by the end of the summer, which will make things easier come senior year when applications have to be balanced with schoolwork. Contrary to popular belief, there will still be plenty of schoolwork during the last year of high school.

Many students were expecting more help from the school with their applications. Labrecque said, “I felt like for the most part I was left on my own. I was told to do research and fill out applications. I was told that I would need letters of recommendation. I felt like after that I was left to do it on my own. However, this process can easily get very confusing.”

McKinzie said, “I didn’t realize it would be so up to the student to figure out their future; filling out the Common App, writing the essay, and getting accepted into a school is only the tip of the iceberg. Those are the things you learn about and are told about and receive some support with. Outside of that, things like housing, visits, financial aid, testing, acceptance, and admission decisions are left up to you, and with no notice. They are complicated and come and go quickly, and I wish I had known about that and had more of a game plan.”

To make up for the gaps in information, it will be necessary for those applying to college to do research on the process. It will be especially difficult for those without friends or family members who have recently gone through the same thing. Having that resource could prove to be valuable. It would oftentimes be much more convenient to contact this person than going through conflicting responses on the internet or finding someone at the school who may or may not have the information you’re looking for.

During application season, many college admissions staff feel it is important that they get to know their applicant before accepting them. Many schools put significant value in interviewing their applicant. Interviewing is not usually highly stressed by people advising others on applications.

Senior Tori Zane wanted to make sure this was known by incoming seniors: “When you are applying to schools, even schools you feel like you will get into easily – do an interview. Seriously, even if you aren’t a good interviewer, it shows interest in a school and will help you practice for the more important ones. Nothing is worse than feeling like there were things you could have done but didn’t [do].”

One thing that often confuses college applicants is the intricacies of early action and early decision application. Early action means the applicant will get a response back from the school sooner than if they had applied regular decision. Early decision includes this perk as well, however, applicants can only apply to one school this way, and if they get it, their acceptance is binding.

Many students were weary of applying early decision because of the prospect of not being able to get out of that situation if the change their mind. However, it could be a good option for many students.

Zane stated, “I was afraid that committing to a school would mean I wouldn’t get any money from them, but that’s not true- I learned much later that you can legally get out of an early decision acceptance if they don’t meet your financial need. So if you know you want to go somewhere, just do it, even though the commitment is scary.”

Additionally, applying early decision could increase your chances of acceptance. Zane stated, “For some really selective schools, going early decision can increase your admission chances by almost 50%.” 

Often, students start their senior year looking at colleges without considering the cost of attendance in their evaluation of the school. It is important to have an idea of what you will be able to afford for your education. It is also crucial to understand that the price listed may not be inconsistent with what will be paid. State schools will not always be cheaper than private ones. Looking at a list of schools that meet 100% of need could be a valuable way to find new schools to visit. For those who are able to get accepted into these schools, it will likely be one of their least expensive options.

The financial aid aspect of college applications is only vaguely touched upon by anyone in the school offering guidance. It is imperative to have the FAFSA and, if applicable, the CSS profile filled out accurately and on time. It takes a significant amount of time to do this and the importance of it could not be overstressed.  

Also, it is better to apply to more schools than not enough. Zane said, “For some reason, I thought I would be better off applying to [fewer] schools and narrowing my list down. Do not do this. Apply to a ton of colleges, especially if you can get fee waivers or they are a 100% need-meeting school.”

Zane speaks from experience. She elaborated about her own experience, “I ended up applying to basically only reach/dream schools and safety schools which left me with two options. Not fun. You want to have choices when it comes down to decision time, not be forced into a corner because only one or two schools gave you enough money/accepted you.”

On a related note, many people are guilty of telling others that they are a shoe-in at the schools they are applying to when this may not be the case. It is important not to fall into this trap. When evaluating whether a school is a safety, goal, or reach school, one must trust statistics about testing scores and acceptance rates. When friends or other adults tell an applicant what they think their chances of getting into a school are, they will have an inherent bias about the abilities of this student and are probably not looking at them like an admissions counselor will. Listening to these opinions may lead to a false sense of hope, or worse, the decision to not apply to enough safeties because one is overconfident in their ability to get into their dream school.

As many students will be applying to and attending the University of Connecticut, Zane has some important advice for anybody considering this school: “This may not apply to many people, but when you apply to UConn apply to the main campus, don’t apply to Avery Point. I applied to Avery Point as a first preference because I was thinking of it as a last resort financially, but now I’m probably going there and I wished I had applied to Storrs. It’s easy to switch to a regional campus from the main campus, but not vice versa.”

McKinzie advised, “Underclassmen should know that it is essential to be mentally and emotionally prepared. Don’t let senioritis paralyze you from the first day of your last year here. Go in with motivation and drive; you’ll have time to relax in June. Don’t be fooled by people who tell you that senior year requires no effort.” Like all teachers will say about writing papers and studying for tests, this can’t be done just the night before. Only this time, the stakes are higher and the statement is actually true.

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