Applying for College: Advice from Current College Students

It’s the end of junior year and you’ve been doing college visits to see which ones to add to your college list. Now it’s time to start applying as you’re in your senior year or starting it soon. You can almost feel that high school diploma in your hand, but wait – you still need to apply to college! Applying for college is something that every student will go through. No matter how many people you ask about the experience, there is always something to learn about applying to college for the first time. It can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re the first person in your family to go to college.

We’ve asked three college students about their application experience so we can give you the best advice before you submit your application.

1. Apply Early

Applying early is key to not stressing yourself out during your college application process. This doesn’t mean you need to rush through though. When you apply early, you usually have a higher chance of getting accepted and you’ll be able to know your financial aid reward quicker. Waiting until the last minute to apply to college can stress you out to the point where you don’t even enjoy your last year of high school. Check if your college has early action applications and even early decision applications! 

“Because I waited until the last minute to apply for college, I was spreading myself thin with all my extracurriculars and college applications. I played two Varsity sports and was part of my high school’s Student Council so I did have a lot of meetings, practices, and games to attend during my senior year. When it came down to writing my college application and personal statements, I didn’t have time to write a rough draft and go over it a few times before submitting it. I still got into one of the schools on my college list that I wanted but I wasn’t able to enjoy my senior year because I was so stressed out about the deadlines with my other activities going on at the same time.”

-Charles Hilston (Michigan State University)

2. Be Yourself

Applying to college can feel like applying for a job. They’re picking from tens of thousands of students each year to attend their school, so of course, you want to make yourself seem like a great candidate. One thing to never forget about your college application process is to be yourself. Especially if you meet with an admissions committee, you want to be genuine and true to yourself. Don’t lie on your application for a chance to be admitted.

“One of my top schools had a low admissions rate which made me nervous. I was tempted to tell a few white lies and sell myself on my application but my parents encouraged me not to. They said if the college wants you, they should want you for yourself not the person you’re pretending to be. I am so happy I took their advice because I was admitted into one of my top schools!”

-Kara Knolls (University of Florida)

3. Follow Instructions Thoroughly

It can be easy to overlook the minute details of applications when applying to college for the first time. The college admissions process can be a bit nerve-wracking. You’re so excited to fill out each question and provide the well thought-out responses that you may not realize you’re not following the instructions all the way. When you don’t read the directions and follow them accurately, you may risk your admissions status. Colleges want to see that you can follow directions, so take your time when filling out the application and writing your essay. Have your parents or mentors read it through before you submit it. Having another set of eyes looking at your application may help catch a mistake.

“When I was filling out my college applications, I misread the college essay prompt completely. I wrote the entire essay and was so excited to submit it but had my mom read it over before officially sending it in. I’m so happy I asked her to do that because she caught that the essay didn’t answer the prompt fully and it wasn’t clear what I was trying to say. I reread the prompt and was shocked by how far I was off on the topic! I didn’t read the directions and prompt carefully and it almost cost me my admission to my dream college.”

-Raquel Evanston (Ohio State University)

Lessons Learned

Enjoy your senior year and don’t overstress about applying to college. Submit your best work and follow the advice from these college students to ensure you get an admissions letter! Don’t forget to mark your calendars for college application deadlines and early action deadlines. Whether you get an early admission or regular admission, getting accepted into one of your college choices is exciting and something worth celebrating.

If you’re still unsure about which college to attend, use College Raptor’s college match tool to find the best one for you. And if you need help paying for college, finding scholarships is the best way to get free money for school!