Eight things I wish I knew about college applications

Naviance is a website that helps students with helping to choose a school and what the student may be good at in the future.

Victoria Smith

Naviance is a website that helps students with helping to choose a school and what the student may be good at in the future.

With the college system in America having such a large influence on the general population, especially high schoolers preparing to apply, the truth behind the admissions process can easily become skewed. As an almost-graduated senior who lived and survived the process, I thought I’d share as much important information as I could.

1. Begin to apply for scholarships at the start of school: With your future at college seeming murky and unsure before you receive acceptances, it’s easy to prolong applying for scholarships. However counter-intuitive it may seem, prime scholarship opportunities arise during the very beginning of school, and many scholarships can end up carrying a good portion of any tuition burden.

2. NHS and CSF: If eligible to participate in these two programs, apply to both as early as possible. Not only will they provide scholarship opportunities, but they also provide their members with extra items to wear at graduation. This isn’t exactly application information, but is definitely relevant to graduation.

3. The weight of volunteer hours on admission decisions: When considering the weight of volunteer hours, use the rule of quality over quantity. The number of hours a person volunteers carries much less weight than the actual act of being a volunteer under a general commonality (i.e. the educational system, helping the environment). Colleges look more for commitment within a certain sector of volunteering rather than the amount of hours received.

4. Early action/decision vs. regular decision: A huge factor in differentiating between the two lies within the amount of financial aid the college is readily able to give. With early action, applicants have a greater chance at receiving financial aid, as they are the first applicants of the year. Early decision is a binding agreement stating that in the event you do get accepted, you will have the inability to accept any other offers from other colleges you apply to as well. This option is best for students sure of their wanting to go to a certain college.

5. What to do when you’ve been wait-listed: When wait-listed, it’s often hard to understand what the best option is. Personally, I saw it best to accept all wait list offers in an attempt to keep my options open, but in the event that you’ve been accepted to the college of your choice, it may be best for you to decline in order to allow other more committed wait-listed applicants to have a stronger chance. Accepting wait list offers can neither help nor hurt you, and your accepting of the offer is non-binding.

6. Debt and loans suck more than you probably think: When in high school, still under the financial support of parents, it becomes easy to think of debt as a simple number that will eventually go away–THIS IS NOT THE CASE. Choose a college that ultimately minimizes your debt at the end, because any debt you have will multiply with interest and swallow you as you’re attempting to progress your professional life and career. In many cases, banks place a cap on loans, which is also something to consider, especially when considering attending a private college with $60,000+ in attendance fees. Be smart with finances, and in the case of debt, think ahead of time rather than in the present.

7. Public and private school financial aid differences: Because the UC system requires only the FAFSA as a determinant in how much financial aid will be given, the amount of grants given will be more black and white. Private schools factor in the CSS in addition to the FAFSA, with the CSS giving a more strict analysis of financial situations and in some cases causing private schools to grant less money. However, private schools also have private funding, a beneficial factor in their grant systems, especially within the schools that have a larger alumni network.

8. ACT/SAT and their weight in college decisions: Though it has been considered that the ACT and SAT have lost some credibility and momentum within the college system, some colleges, namely private universities, will use the SAT and ACT scores of a person as a determinant of admission, especially when considering what their students will look like statistically and on paper. However, the ACT and SAT do not seem to carry as much weight as grades, essays and extracurriculars.