Tips from a Past Student
I asked one of my students for her advice to students starting the college planning process. Allie is a 2019 graduate of St. Lawrence University. Her major was statistics and her minors were mathematics and Francophone studies. She works as a digital media specialist at a marketing agency in Lake Placid, NY. Below are her college planning tips:
Try to create a new email address for all your college stuff. I never did that and my inbox was constantly cluttered and I had a difficult time sorting through college stuff and other things since it was all clumped together. I think it might be better to have a separate email account for everything college.
Definitely do all of your visiting before senior year. It’s too crazy during the fall of senior year to figure out what you want, visiting, deciding, and doing your applications. Have the visits done before senior year starts. If you’re going into your junior year, come up with a plan for which colleges you want to visit. I strongly recommend visiting during the school year because you do get to see the campus in a normal routine. Similarly, as great as open houses are, I wouldn’t always recommend going to them. They have some nice options, like sitting in on a class, eating a meal, talking with professors, etc. but since the day is revolved around prospective students, you may not get the “true” identity of the school. You can get those extra opportunities on a regular campus visit by just asking the admissions office…they’re more than likely to get you want you need/want, but it just won’t be organized for you like it is on an open house.
Visit a variety of schools. I went into the process knowing what I wanted, but I still tried to visit a few different types of schools so I had some options and that helped me validate the type of school I wanted. If you have no idea, try different types of schools early so you can see what you like and don’t like and then look into individual schools based on the things you did like.
Get a rough draft of your college essay and supplements done over the summer or within the first few weeks of school. You will more than likely need to do some edits so you want to make sure you have the framework done early so you’re not cramming at the last second or having to settle with an essay/supplements that aren’t very good.
For your essay, don’t try to talk about something just to impress the school. The essay is their one and only way to try to get to know you, and they know when you’re trying to “show off” so it doesn’t really work. Try to be as reflective and honest about yourself as you can while creating an interesting story that reveals your message. Use your essay to show them what you’re like, don’t tell them. And your essay doesn’t need to come to some conclusion where you’ve solved all the world’s problems or figured out who you are (or something like that) because you’re still in high school and have the whole rest of your life ahead of you. So it’s likely that you haven’t figured that out yet. Also, if you think about it from the college’s end, they’re reading tons of applications each day and the one interesting part of each application is the essay, so make the most of that opportunity to seal the deal. Have fun with it, talk about something you love and that’s true to you, and make them remember you.
If you are really interested in a school and want the extra push to help you get in or earn more merit aid, do an interview. They’re really not that bad or as scary as they may seem. The admissions reps are very nice and it’s their job to sell the school to you, so they’re not going to do anything to scare you away. If you stay on the school’s radar and make the extra efforts, they’re going to do more for you when they’re making their decision. Side note: do all optional supplemental essays too for the same exact reason! Try to send “thank you” notes to the people who interviewed you and to your tour guides after you visit at a school you really like. It makes you look better and they’ll appreciate all the little things you do.