Applying to College: Simplify the Process

Applying to College: Simplify the Process

Melissa Townsend, Contributing Writer

Seniors, it’s that time of the year! It’s time to select the college you want to go to next year, but there are many steps that students have to take to pick the right school. Applying to colleges is one thing, but trying to pick the colleges that are in your best interest is another. Katrina Alonso, a senior at Morris Hills, admitted that, “It can be very stressful and very intimidating.” Having a long “to do” list leading up to college can be very stressful for most, so to make it easier, here are some tips and tricks for college picking and applying.

  1. Make a list of Likes and Don’t Likes. The main question to ask yourself as you look at colleges is this: what characteristics are you looking for in a college? Consider the class sizes. Do you want smaller classes where you can get to know your teacher, or do you want  big lecture halls with a hundred people? Also, check the male-to female ratio. Do you want an even mix or do you want more girls or more guys? Make sure you look at the different majors your colleges offer and if they have your potential major. What are your goals and what do you want to learn by taking classes? Will you benefit a lot by going to this college? Consider the size of the school. Do you like a smaller population or bigger one? How important is a good cafeteria? Do you prefer a local or out of state school? Think about if you want to travel a lot in between visiting home for weekend or vacation.  Do you plan on doing sports in college? Check out the athletics at each school. Research the Greek life. Do you want to be in a fraternity or sorority?   Does their study abroad program appeal to you? Do they have options for internship? Will their scholarship programs fulfill your financial needs? Do you have any reach schools you may want to consider? Most importantly, into which colleges would you be accepted?
  2. Visit the schools on your list. Once you narrow down the schools that meet your requirement, visit them. Sometimes the school that you looked up online isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Going to those colleges and checking out the location and scenery, including the dorms, can drastically change your mind about them. Emily Townsend, an alumni from Morris Hills who went to NJIT after high school stated, “I never visited my school, and when I moved in on the first day, it wasn’t what I was expecting. Some advice: visit the schools before you move in or else you’re stuck with it.” It will ultimately help you in picking the right school for you. In the long run, you don’t want to regret your decision.
  3. Revise and shorten your college list. Make your final list of your top choices. Sometimes it’s tougher to pick your top schools when you have too many on your list.
  4. Check deadlines for applications. Check all your top schools’ application deadlines. In what order should you fill out your applications? You should get a head start on your essays to make sure they are top-notch. Sending your application way before the deadline shows that you didn’t wait until the last minute and that you are serious about the school.
  5. Get personal. Your essay should show what makes you who you are, so don’t be afraid to show emotion in it. It doesn’t have to be a perfect, clean cut essay. In fact, it can be deeply personal and can even talk about negative experiences, as long as you show how they affected you positively in the long run. Ask a college advisor, guidance counselor, or even your English teacher to look it over once you’ve completed a draft and give some feedback of what’s good and what needs to be improved upon. Lastly, don’t ever send in your rough draft as your final essay. Always revise and edit.

Seniors can be overwhelmed by applying. They sometimes don’t know what they need before they send their applications; it’s more than just the application itself. Here’s a checklist of things you need to get done before finalizing your application:

Senior College Application Checklist:
  1. Check the college websites to view their application
  1. Application fee
  1. Essay
  1. Activity sheet/resume
  1. SAT/ACT scores
  1. Recommendation Letters
  1. FAFSA
  1. Transcript Request Form
  1. Go back and check everything


Although this is a lot to take in, the process will become a lot easier if you follow the steps above. It’s already a mind boggling idea that you’re going to college soon, but you must take the first few steps carefully before you are sent off on your own. To all the seniors, good luck with the road ahead and wherever it may take you.