You’ve decided that you are ready to start the college application process. Chances are you’re a sophomore in college and realize that this is the time to begin thinking about colleges. The problem is once the initial excitement about looking at colleges wears off, you are left staring at a mountain of information, tasks, deadlines, and options that can leave you overwhelmed.
The entire process can take over two years and includes several different phases. These phases include but are not limited to, researching schools, campus visits, applications, researching majors, and financial aid. So, before you even start this long and winding journey, let’s talk about a few things to do right at the start.
Why are you going to college?
College is a serious commitment. You are committing four years of your time and thousands of dollars of money to this next step in your education. Therefore, you need to be clear as to why you have made this choice. If your current answer is “I don’t know,” “Because I am supposed to,” or “My parents are making me,” then you need a new answer.
College is your opportunity to create a future of your own choosing. This is the beginning of a journey that, if done correctly, will prepare you to build a career and life of satisfaction and fulfillment. Now is the time to start thinking about what you are looking to get out of college? Do you want to meet people in a particular field? Are there certain subjects you want to learn more about? Having a basic idea of why you are going to college can help you figure out which schools you should be looking at.
What Type of Person Do You Want To Become?
What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question that you have been asked several times in the duration of your life. It is also a question that is closely tied to choosing a college. The issue with this question is that it can limit your choices. You are forcing yourself to make a life-altering decision without understanding all of your options. Instead, before you start looking at colleges and majors, ask yourself, “What type of person do I want to become?”.
This question is designed to open you up to new possibilities and ideas. Think about when in your life do you feel the most accomplished or satisfied. Perhaps, it is when you are helping other people and giving them the advice to solve a problem. Maybe you should become the type of person who helps people for a living. Your next step is to list out all the jobs that are associated with that type of person. Finally, take the time to find people who are currently doing those jobs and learn more about them.
Once you complete this, you will have a much better idea of what majors and careers you’re interested in. By learning more about these possible jobs and careers ahead of time, you will know which ones you maybe passionate about and which ones you can forget about. This allows you to focus solely on schools that are going to help you become the person that you want to be.
Determine The Type of Environment You Need To Succeed
If you have read my past posts, you know the basis of my advice comes from surveying and interviewing college graduates. The majority of these grads often speak about how they did not take enough time to determine what they as an individual needed from a college to be successful. They got caught up thinking they had to go away college or choose a big-name school with a huge campus and successful football team.
Take the time to do some self-discovery and be honest about your academic and personal needs. Is going away to school a good fit for you? Will you be successful in large lecture halls, or should you find a school that offers smaller sized classrooms? Will you be okay in a new town and living with new people? How important are things like seeing family and friends when it comes to your mental health?
There are no wrong answers to these questions. The only wrong path is not taking the time to ask these questions at the beginning. These answers will guide your college search and help you only focus on schools that fit your needs. Remember, you are a unique individual that needs to do what is best for you.
Tell Your Story
Everyone has a story to tell. You may think that is not true and that you are boring or are uninteresting. First, I am almost positive you are more interesting than you give yourself credit for. Second, it is your best interest to figure that out sooner rather than later. You will be applying to the same college and thousands of other high school students. The last thing you want is to blend in and look like every other applicant the admissions department sees.
Take the time to map out your personal story. Start with why you are going to college and what you are looking to accomplish. Write out your interests and passions. Think about how going to college is going to help you build the life you want. Think about what that life looks like and what you are doing to get there. List out all of your accomplishments, awards, and past jobs. Make a list of teachers, co-workers, and other individuals who would be willing to vouch for you as a person.
This will help you begin to craft the story you will tell during your application process. This story will accomplish three main things. First, it will give the admissions counselor a better understanding of who you are as a person. Second, it will show the counselor the value you will add to the school if accepted. Third, it will help you stand out during your college essay. It could be the edge you need to get in over a student who just picked an essay topic off the internet.
Get Serious and Get Organized
Looking at colleges should be an enjoyable experience, but it is also not something to take lightly. You will be spending a considerable amount of time and money on college and want to ensure you get it right. There are also several deadlines and tasks to keep on track of. Before you even begin, figure out how you are going to keep track of everything.
The myKlovr platform can help you accomplish this. It allows you to enter all these crucial deadlines and due dates in one place so you can keep track of everything. It also provided reminders when an important date is approaching. However, this is only half the battle. For this to work, you must be committed to putting in the time and energy to the entire process. Understand what’s expected of you and commit to staying on top of it for the duration of the process.
If it’s time to start looking at colleges, then it’s time to get serious about your future. Yes, it can be overwhelming. You will most likely make a few mistakes along the way. The critical thing to remember is that if you apply yourself to the process and give it the time and attention it deserves, then you will be just fine. We covered a lot of valuable information at a very high level.
Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life, including college, entering the workforce, and the real world. He offers several students focused services, including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org.