Applying to college is a major life stage, one that can trigger feelings of stress. You may feel pressured to write the best essays, ace your tests, and obtain the most gloating letters of recommendation. You may be so focused on getting into your top colleges that you don’t take a moment to gain some perspective. Remember, millions of high school seniors apply to college each and every year. While every student will have a unique application journey, you are not alone in this experience.
Fortunately, there are numerous resources made available to college-bound students in the midst of the application process. Tapping into these resources will ease stress and tension, allowing you to concentrate on submitting the best application possible. Curious to learn more? Ahead, three resources to help you excel during the college application process.
1. Counselors and Consultants
One of the biggest resources for you when applying to college is your high school counselor. They have access to your coursework, grades, and activities. If you’ve formed a relationship with them early on in high school, you are already in a good spot. If not, it’s never too late to make an appointment and discuss your future college plans with them.
Because they help high school students during the process every year, they know what college administrators are looking for. They understand what it takes to get into Ivy League schools just as much as they know what a state school’s average GPA is. A counselor can steer you in the right direction for the types of schools that you should apply to. They can assist you with letters of recommendation as well as local dates for standardized testing.
It goes without saying that high school counselors are more often than not stretched very thin. They are helping not only you, but all of your classmates as well as underclassmen. If you’re looking for more personalized help, you may consider hiring a college admissions consultant. These consultants can assist you in the same ways that a counselor can, but in a more individualized way. They will act as your biggest cheerleader while streamlining the process for applying to schools and eliminating unnecessary stress.
Standardized tests are an important part of the application process. These tests are a way for colleges to compare students across thousands of high schools. Your score reflects your base knowledge in critical reading, writing, and math. If you struggle in any of these areas, hiring a tutor can be a beneficial move.
Not only will a SAT or ACT tutor work with you on a specific skill set, but they will also keep you accountable. Studying for a major test like this takes a lot of discipline. Ideally, you want to give yourself two to three months to study. However, with your busy school schedule as well as sports practices and extracurriculars, the exam can easily sneak up on you. If you know time management is a problem for you, talk with your tutor about putting together a realistic study plan.
Your tutor will likely suggest that you take a practice test first to see what areas you need to focus on the most. The College Board offers free online practice SAT tests so you can see what kinds of questions you will be asked. And the ACT website offers a free study guide as well as a full length practice test upon your registration.
Once you’ve taken a practice exam, go through the test with your tutor and have them explain why you got a question correct or incorrect. Reviewing in this way can help improve your scores and ensure that you walk into testing day feeling at ease and confident.
3. Department of Education
This last resource may be surprising, but it can certainly help when it comes to paying for college. Thinking about your financial situation ahead of applying is important. That said, you may put it on the back burner until you know where you’ve been accepted. So once the test scores are submitted and the essays are written, your mind will shift to how you’ll pay for college. This is where the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid comes in.
This department provides numerous resources for you and your family to educate yourself on paying tuition. There are digital brochures to guide you through applying for federal student aid and tips on how to budget before move-in day. If you know that you’ll need to take out a loan, they have resources on repayment options. Knowing what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line is important, particularly in today’s unpredictable economy.
You’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA, before applying for federal student aid. This form is used by colleges to see if you’re eligible for state and school aid. The main purpose of this form is to give money to students that need it most.
Going to college is a big deal. So while the application process may be overwhelming, know that the final outcome will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Leverage all the resources made available to you to ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward with each application.