Now that I enter the final phases of the college process, I look back at the godawful endeavor that it has been. While many people will tell you that these sorts of things teach and make you stronger, I could have gone without that lesson.
Now let me make it clear, I am very happy where I ended up. In the Fall it looks that I will be attending Chapman University. It is a great school and I am lucky to go there.
But what it took to get there was frankly hell. From the amount of work required on the applications during a busy part of senior year to the pains of the financial aid process, it has been an experience to forget.
My advice towards those who have not yet experienced the joy of applying is this:
1. Start Early. This makes life a lot easier for you and your family. If you can have an idea of the type of college (eg. small, big, east coast, west coast, etc.) you want to go to by the end of the summer before senior year you are on a good track. This will allow you to pick out schools you really want to go to and not stress out which ones you are applying to.
2. Be on the same page. A key to the college process is communication between the student, their parents and the college adviser. Make sure that all parties know of the general expectations and plans at all times. This ensures more productivity and less fights/homicides.
3. Be realistic. The worst thing you can do is think you are built for Stanford when you really should be going to a state school. There is nothing wrong with going to a college, no matter which one you choose. But save yourself and the admissions offices some time and choose schools within your range. Still apply to reach schools and safeties, but don’t shoot for the stars with a bottle rocket.
4. Save Save Save. Some people may have a healthy money tree in their backyard but if that is not the case then start saving now. As much as you think you are going to get those scholarships or “it will all work out” chances are you want to avoid being 100k in debt when you graduate. Save what you can and go over what you can really afford before you chose a college. Again, be realistic about what you can do and find the best option for your money.
There are parts to the college game you just have to find out as you go. Work hard in school and prepare and it will be as easy as possible. I am not saying it will be easy because quite frankly I haven’t been hearing any of my friends say what an easy process it was.
But with hard work and maybe some luck you can end up in a good college where you can really succeed and have a good time while doing it. That is the end goal and it is attainable with work.