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7 Tips for Navigating the College Application Process


As a first-generation student, I entered the college process blind. It seemed like everyone else had the support of older siblings or parents, but I was left to navigate it alone. Now that I have gone through it (successfully), I would like to share a few tips and tricks to alleviate the worries of others with the same problem.

  • It’s sooner than you think.

The August CommonApp opening date seems so far away, but it’s not. Don’t wait until August to start applying to schools. It takes a lot of time to prepare a proper essay that represents you and will impress an admission officer. By using your summer wisely, you can take your time and produce quality supplements. A lot of people work better under pressure. However, although you may be able to write an essay in a night, you probably can’t write something groundbreaking. You want to be proud of what you write!

  • Know your priorities.

College isn’t as simple as applying and getting in. Each school has a different niche and reason to be chosen. In my experience, tuition was the biggest concern. I never had a dream school, so when researching schools, the large number was daunting. I want to get my doctorate, and each semester adds up. By staying home and going to a local school, I can save for grad school. This is what works for me, but may not work for others. Invest in your college experience and your education, but focus on what is important to you.  

  • Keep your options open.

Confidence is key, but overconfidence isn’t smart. Don’t only apply to one or two schools. What if you get deferred, waitlisted, or forget to hit submit on your application? Always have a backup plan.

  • It’s not just about grades.

I always believed having a 4.0 GPA and perfect attendance was the key to getting into a good college. In reality, you have a lot of competition. There are thousands of other students with the same stats as you, applying to the same schools. What sets you apart from them? Take that volunteering opportunity and join that club, because colleges have a holistic approach to considering applicants. 

  • Don’t underestimate yourself.

Take the chance to apply to schools you don’t think you will get into. You never know the outcome, and by not taking the opportunity, you are setting yourself up for failure. 

  • Don’t do it alone.

Seek help from teachers, peers, and advisors. They can give really helpful pointers. College advisors are really expensive, but there are programs that can provide you with help for free. I applied to the Scholars program which provided me with free advising. This really eased my stress, and I highly suggest having someone with experience give you advice. 

  • Show Interest.

By interacting with and taking visits to colleges, you can show them that you really want to attend their school. This will make it more likely that you will be accepted. If you have a specific school in mind, applying early decision can double or triple your chance of acceptance.

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About the Contributor
Sarah Bensaid, Senior News and Features Editor
Sarah is the Senior News and Features Editor. She enjoys crochet, sewing and language learning, and drinking bubble tea. Her favorite color is brown and her favorite ice cream flavor is raspberry. Her favorite class at Valley is Child Development. After graduation. she hopes to travel around the world and get a DNP in Neonatal nursing.

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