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I Don't Know Where to Start (General College Advice)

By a Student, Anastasia Kolovani
Preparing for college is a difficult time for every student and it's okay to feel like you don't know what you're doing or even where to begin. First sit down and talk to your parents about college. Let them know you want to go and where you want to go. This part is important because your parents will be giving you their input about how much they are able to afford. After you and your parents have come up with a budget, pick out schools that are within your budget. This isn't the step where you pick a school because you anticipate a certain amount of financial aid. You really want to take the time and research colleges in your budget because you never know if you'll actually receive that financial aid. Then you can look at schools that are out of your budget but you really like them and put them on your maybe list. See if they offer any scholarships and see if you fit into one.

Now that you have a budget in place, you're going to want to take the SAT or ACT. Check with your college for which one they accept. Make sure you get a score that the college says on its website because that is the average score accepted students have received in the past year. And remember, you can take the SAT or ACT more than once so don't feel pressured if you don't do we'll the first time.

Then, you're going to need to get two teacher recommendation letters. It's best to ask your two favorite teachers and make sure you did well in their class because if you didn't, it's going to be hard for the teacher to write the letter and you don't want a bad recommendation. This is the part where colleges find out how others perceive you besides what is written on your application and what you say about yourself. Also, remember to ask your teachers towards the end of your junior year because come senior year, they are going to be booked with recommendation writing.

After that step, it's time to fill out your applications. Most school use the common application which will save you a ton of time but if one of your schools doesn't, fill out their application and make sure to read what they want handed in as well to have you application complete. You don't want to leave your application hanging around the admissions office of a college because it's not complete and most admission officers won't call or email you to let you know, so it's up to you to make sure everything has arrived. A quick call two weeks after everything has been mailed should be fine. After the applications, go talk to your guidance counselor and let them know where to send your transcripts and your letters of recommendation. Since the application part is done online, your guidance counselor has to mail in everything else that the college needs, but don't ask you counselor to mail you transcript and recommendation letters the day before the deadline because you both know it won't arrive on time and your application is going to be put on a wait list. That means your application will be read if there's any room left. And you don't want to let your dream school say they don't have any room left for you because there's going to be a lot of crying and Ben and Jerry's ice cream as well.

After this, you technically are done and all you have to do is wait for the envelopes to come in. For most people this is the most stressful part. Waiting is hard and I remember when I was waiting for my envelope to come. It was torture and everyone says the big envelope means you're accepted, but a small one might mean you're accepted as well. Don't throw anything out. Make sure to read the papers inside the envelopes.

Applying to college doesn't have to be stressful and make you think as though you have no idea what you're doing. Take a deep breath and write down everything you need to do because in the end you'll find out it's not that much.

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• How Ivy League Admissions works
• On the Student/Faculty Ratio

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