How to deal with college applications

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Caitlin Trude

The month of November presents a challenge to college applicants. Credit: Aysen Tan/ The Foothill Dragon Press

Ah, November. A smooth transition from the excitement of candy-filled Halloween nights to the brisk autumn pre-Thanksgiving season. Or for all the seniors, perhaps you’re holding off on any holiday spirit until those devilish college applications are over and done with.

Remember the days when the word “app” referred to the lightsaber feature on your iPhone? No such luck these days, my senior cohorts.

The whole business of searching and applying to colleges reminds me of a jaded courtship. Multiple suitors (er, colleges) send love letters (brochures) and thick envelopes (the really big brochures) your way, each promising you four of the best years of your life.

And so you continue to get a steady stream of emails and “We want you” brochures from a few of your dream colleges, some of which happen to be the most prestigious universities in the country.

Most of the letters woo you with similar greetings: “Our school was made for excelling students like you” or “We believe you’d be a perfect fit for our school.” You feel special and honored as you flip through the brochures’ enticing pages.

But you also realize that these lines have been used countless times on you and the rest of the students on the schools’ mailing lists. Upon this realization, do your dreams of getting a top-notch education at an Ivy League-type school still feel close enough to reach?

Fast-forward to the application portion of the college process. Most colleges are fairly straightforward in terms of what materials to send on over. For others, it’s like a “Where’s Waldo?” game trying to figure out what they need from you. It might be only a week after sending in my completed application to a college that I get another email telling me that they’re missing something from me, such as my SAT/ACT scores.

Wait, what? I had scavenged all over that college’s website, and there was never a word about that on this particular college’s admissions page.

Then of course, there is the matter of having to resort to the six words parents like to hear least: “Can I borrow your credit card?”

Knowing that you’re only going to attend one of the however many colleges you applied to makes this part a little more painful.

For those of you who are just now getting a start on those applications, or for juniors who have yet to discover the joys of seniority, here’s my advice to you.

What I don’t recommend is applying to more than six colleges, or ten for you overly-ambitious students. It will only end up being a huge investment for you or your parents, as applications can be pricey, and will make Decision Day something to dread. With that said, aim for your dream colleges, but have your back-up safety schools at the ready.

Don’t have your heart completely set on any one college? The same goes for me, but fear not, for you will end up in a place that is right for you academically, financially, and/or location-wise (given that you actually apply to places you can see yourself in).

And before falling in love with a potential school, discuss your possibilities with your guardians. My guess is that they’ll be the ones paying for your tuition, and will be less than thrilled upon finding out that the only schools you applied to were Harvard, NYU, and Princeton.

Once you have your college list set up, map out a to-do list for each and plan for at least two weeks of running around getting transcripts (from both high school and colleges, if applicable), test scores, letters of recommendation, essays, payments, and any other supplements that go along with the application. Most likely, your life will be filled with mass amounts of emails, phone calls, ID numbers for colleges, new passwords, and enough paperwork to make you reconsider applying to all of the colleges you had planned on.

“Oh, I can get this app done in an hour, tops!” you say. Sure, if you’re the Flash. Set aside at least two hours for each college app.

Finally, when it comes down to the essay, be honest, be real, be you. Colleges don’t want to hear about how you were the all-star quarterback, found the cure to cancer, and lived in a cupboard under the stairs for half your life before saving the wizarding world from eternal doom if you have nothing to show for it.

Dealing with super-detailed, time-consuming apps is a part of life we all have to deal with, like getting teeth pulled. You could bypass both those things, but they will eventually come back to haunt you in the long run.

So get them done, get them over with, and you will have something to truly be thankful for at the Thanksgiving table. You know, until scholarship essay season.

What do you think?