College applications advice (from current college students)

College applications are, for lack of a better word, kind of wack. I’m a senior, and despite the fact that I’m taking a whole lot of BS classes and not doing a real fall sport—in other words, I have all the free time in the world after school—my level of motivation to write college essays has been about as high as my grade was in precalc. When the Common Application® asks me to “recount a time I faced a setback or failure,” I am tempted to type the words “writing this essay” and leave it at that. Unfortunately, I think my brilliant wit would be lost on the vast majority of admissions officers. I’ve decided that the best (and only) route to true motivation is being scared into it, so, naturally, I talked with some college students about their application processes. 

Along with a handful of winter-break-grind horror stories, I received some insightful guidance about applying from some kids who have suffered it firsthand. For anyone who’s beginning—or, if you’re like me, willfully not beginning—the application process this fall, I’ve compiled some of the best advice below for your convenience. (Remember that this is just a guide and there will be some contradictory information coming from different sources, which is fine; everyone’s process is different.) Good luck to all!

“If you’re using the Common App, fill it out over several weeks/months before the deadline. You’ll feel so much more confident with your overall application if you take time on it.” -Selah Joyce

“Apply to as many schools as possible. It’s really good to keep your options open because throughout senior year you might change as a person and your interests might align with colleges differently than at the start of the year. For example, I applied to mostly East Coast schools, but when decision time came, I realized I was leaning more towards staying on the West Coast.” -Damon Pontarelli 

“Apply to as many scholarships as you can. It sucks writing all of those essays, but it’s so worth it.” – Katelyn Knox

“Start writing [your application] now. Edit it, then wait a week and look at it again.” -Trevor Li

“Even if you don’t think you have ANY chance of getting into that one school you really love, still apply because you never know if you have that little thing on your application that the school you want is looking for.” -Sophie Glad

“Your application is normally stronger if it has a ‘theme.’ An aspiring biology major with strong science grades, a strong ACT science score, and science-related extracurricular activities is a stronger applicant than someone who is well-rounded but doesn’t seem to be particularly passionate about anything.” -Jadon Schmitt

“Be honest in your applications and don’t be afraid to mention taboo subjects if they are important to you. If you get in early, DO NOT slack off senior year. You can absolutely get your admission offer rescinded for that.” -Bella Meyn

“I did early action for everything and I’m very glad I did that. It was difficult, but worth it.” -Brooke Baker

“Apply as early as you can, get it over with and the stress will go away!” -Will Spangler

“It’s crucial that you listen to yourself. There’s no such thing as a good or bad or hard or easy school, there’s just the school that is going to make you be your best and happiest self. Don’t take it all so seriously—you’ll end up where you’re meant to be one way or another.” -Margo Sidline