Making college applications easier

We’ve all heard the horror stories about students forgetting about college deadlines until the day before, not getting accepted to any schools or even sending a college’s supplement questions to the wrong college.

This is the stuff of students’ nightmares. And, having just finished the college application process for myself, I have accumulated a couple of helpful tips for those juniors (and their parents) who are worried about what the college application process holds for them.

Timing

Everything takes longer than expected. From developing a solid list, filling out the basic information on the Common Application and then locating and answering supplement questions, there are hundreds of different variables people are bound to miss. The best thing to do is set a deadline for submission well ahead of the college’s actual deadline, so there is room for error.

This year, all of my early action schools had a Nov. 1 deadline. So, I set an Oct. 1 deadline for myself to complete all essays, application materials, SAT tests, etc. That gave me enough built-in time to overcome any delays or obstacles because, thanks to an illness there, three tests on a Monday there, and the catastrophe that is the Common App, everything was wrapped up around Oct. 29.

‘Optional’ essays

It seems too good to be true. After hours of stumbling through questions like “What outrages you?” or “How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared?” there is a shining light and it’s the “optional” supplement question. But beware of the word “optional” because this is essentially a trick.

As difficult as it may be to answer one more quirky, mind-numbing essay, these questions are optional only if you have no intention of being accepted at the school you’re applying to. Yes, it’s a cruel trick, but thankfully there is a workaround to all of these essay questions.

One of the best pieces of advice I received for my applications was to lay out all of the essay questions on a spreadsheet and compare them. Many of the essay topics overlapped and I was able to twist School A’s essay to work for School B. Just be careful not to send Northwestern an essay about how much you love Northeastern’s business school.

Visiting schools 

When possible, going to see the place where a student will be spending his/her next four years is an extremely valuable experience. Many students develop an initial impression or “vibe” within the first few seconds of stepping on campus.

The “vibe” a school gives a student is very important. It tells the student if they could see themselves here and if there are people on campus they could identify and succeed in working with.

Parents, no matter the school’s excellent reputation or how much you want your child to attend, your son or daughter may step on campus and love or hate it in short order. Unfortunately, this is often a costly and time-consuming process for a five-second impression.

It’s an overwhelming, exciting, occasionally infuriating process, but applying to college is a milestone that should be recognized, regardless of the outcome.

 

Henry Ricciardi is a senior at Greenwich High School.

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