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Five Pieces of Advice to Surviving Your College Admissions Journey

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This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

As I wrap up my final year of high school, I am finally enjoying the parts of my senior year I was always so excited about; prom night, graduation, and dorm room shopping.

Assuming you are a current high school student, I am sure you have realized these four years are NOTHING like the movies. One of the biggest stressors I found during my senior year was the never-ending, always daunting college admissions cycle.

Now that I am safely on the other side, I can say that this process can be draining, but it can also be a time of reflection and celebration. If you are reading this now, you are already on the right track.

Throughout your college admissions journey, the best thing you can do is stay informed. That is one of the five pieces of advice to survive your college admissions journey, from the mind of a freshly graduated high school senior. Keep reading for my full list!

1. Stay Informed

The best general advice I can give to any high school senior is to stay informed. Although where you end up going to school is not the end all be all, (what you do there matters way more than any ranking or number), it is important that where you go is the place for you, the price for you, and ultimately a home for you.

To best find that home and make it affordable, you have to stay informed on the school, cost, deadlines, and all the other small details that go into picking a college.

A lot of schools offer presentations or virtual sessions, and I recommend you go to every possible one. This is a process where being in the know can be a difference between a yes and a no.

In addition, tap into any resources at your high school, whether it be sessions with your guidance counselor or chatting with current college freshmen. Learn all you can!

2. Pick A School For You

As I stated before, you want your college to be your home. This is a very individual choice and something that may vary across your friend group.

Don’t be tempted to apply to a place just because “everyone” is. This is about you! Some factors to consider are class size, distance from home, affordability, location, availability of major, and student demographics.

I applied to 5 schools that no one I was friends with applied to. At the time, I wanted a school in an urban setting because it tended to be more diverse in terms of the student body and offered unique opportunities to get involved in the community.

Some of these schools may have been lesser known or perceived as less prestigious, but I knew what I needed and wanted in a school.

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3. Stay True 

In regards to picking a school for you, make sure when you apply that you are being you. Although your anxiety or fear of rejection may make you feel it’s a good idea to stretch the truth, lie, or be someone you are not, I encourage you to stay authentic.

Schools aren’t looking for someone with great grades and lots of community service hours. They are looking for someone who will fit with their values, student body, and culture.

Every school does not have to be for you, and you don’t need to be for every school. This is the time to present your best self, not a version you think schools want.

My essay was about why my parents chose to name me Lauryn instead of Lauren. It was something I took pride in, and I wanted colleges to know a part of my identity I found important.

4. Tell Your Story

Certain things speak for themselves. Your previous grades, standardized test scores, and recommendation letters are now out of your hands.

If you aren’t proud of what you have accomplished, have circumstances that are not reflected in your numbers, or have more to share, essays are the place for you to shine. Even if your GPA is great and your test scores are perfect, essays are a place for you to separate yourself from all the other top scorers.

Your essays are where you’ll make yourself memorable. Unfortunately, these tend to be the most time-consuming parts of the college admissions journey. However, I encourage you to put the time into these essays.

I never had the 36 ACT or number 1 ranking in the class, but I was still able to gain admissions into schools where my grades or standardized test scores put me in the middle of the pack. Your essays are where colleges learn things about you that aren’t always in the numbers or words of others.

My best essays were about my name, my dissatisfaction with the movie The Princess and the Frog, never having a female coach, and my favorite book.

Furthermore, I know it may be tempting to copy and paste essays, especially those “why this school” essays, but I encourage you to give each different prompt a thorough reflection and answer. You want college admissions officers to give you a thorough look, so give them something that they won’t want to move on from.

5. Deal with Disappointment

Unfortunately, there may come a time when you don’t get what you wished for. Maybe you don’t get the major you want, the financial aid you need, or the acceptance letter you so desired.

I was rejected from 3 guaranteed admissions programs, 2 full-ride scholarship programs, and had a couple of disappointing offers that made schools unaffordable for me.

My dream school ended up being a price I was not willing to spend. It wasn’t until February and March that I received a full-ride and an alternate spot for a medical program.

It was so hard for me to remain patient. I felt everyone else was only getting good news, and that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Most of my peers were feeling some level of disappointment or fear just like me, but who wanted to talk about the lows?

I remember when my friends would post highlight reels of acceptances and scholarship offers and leave out the rejections, waitlists, and other disappointing news. It is important to remember that it is not just you and that you will find success in any school, even if it’s not the one you always pictured. 

This concludes my five pieces of advice for surviving your college admissions journey. Remember this process is about finding a home for you and nothing more. Don’t be disappointed if your dream house doesn’t end up being your home. You will find the place you belong.

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Author: Lauryn Taylor

My name is Lauryn Taylor and I am a high school junior from North Carolina. After having early exposure to health care fields, I wish to pursue a career in medicine. In my free time, I enjoy writing, volunteering at a local hospital, and mentoring new students at my high school.