I remember my introduction to the college process like it was yesterday; my school had the whole grade and their parents come in on a weekend and everyone got their own folder to peruse while the college counselors went through a fifty minute PowerPoint. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I remember the panicked feeling that all of this–the PowerPoint, the panel of guest college guides and parents of current seniors, and my mother avidly taking notes next to me- was too real. I wasn’t old enough to be applying to college, I still slept with the hallway light on!
Now, two years later, I am here to tell you it’s okay. I got into college, and so will you. And here are a few nuggets of advice for the feels rushing through you at the moment.
It’s Not as Hard as It Looks
Right now people are probably bombarding you with a lot of scary terms that all melt together like info sessions and campus versus virtual tours and that omnipresent college app essay. The best thing to keep in mind is that it is not as hard as all the terms make it seem.
I was always surprised by how much of “the process” did not actually involve me. My counselor gave me a list of schools to start looking at rather than having to face the abyss myself, and scheduling tours usually did not involve more than one or two phone calls. FAFSA admittedly seemed a beuracratic nightmare, but it is doable with the help of counselors and parents. Even the college essay and various supplements were not all that scary because there was nothing anyone could really do about them until the summer, when there is plenty of time to figure them out. It seems like a lot, but if you stick to a schedule, you’ll be okay.
First off, there are a few terms floating around that you may or may not have heard of before that are going to come up a lot. Info sessions and campus tours usually happen when you visit a school. During the info session you learn about the school (think Saturday morning infomercial) and during a campus tour you are shown around campus. The Common App is the application which most universities require you to fill out. It is mostly basic information like your date of birth and parents’ middle initial, but it also asks about your extracurricular activities and a place where you must write an essay. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is a financial aid for that can be filled out by college students to apply for financial aid.
What You Should Focus On
As a junior, your top priority should be doing what you have been doing for the past two and half years: keep up the good work. While it may not be as new and exciting as applying to college, the most active thing you can do is study for that test, do your homework, and begin that essay. As time passes more stuff is going to be added to your plate. Your schedule will get loaded with college visits and more intense test prep, but in all of that do not lose sight of your work. Everyone knows that juniors have a lot to juggle, but colleges will cut you little slack for struggling with what everyone is dealing with.
You might be wondering what else you can do. I for one like having a set order of operations, and just knowing that makes me feel much better. Try to figure out a broad list of schools you might be interested in. This means schools of different academic levels, different locations, different sizes, and then assign yourself homework. If you have a light Tuesday schedule, dedicate Monday nights to researching four schools online and in college review books. start talking to your parents about when you can visit schools and decide who you’re going with. Dedicate some time to planning out what the college process will be for you, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way!
Want to get started? Check out The Prospect’s Toolbox section, filled with every instrument you’ll need to get started on your college search and your road map to higher education!