A Senior Reflection: Advice I wish I had during the college application process 


Hold on tight – I’m off to college!

The advice I wish I had during the college application process 

       By Ani Seppelin

With spring right around the corner, juniors are starting to begin their college application process. As a senior who just applied to various colleges, there are many aspects I wish I knew before I applied. After asking around many felt this way. To prevent juniors from experiencing the same mistakes, here is some senior’s advice for juniors applying to colleges. 

Start early 

The most valuable advice everyone agreed on was to start early. Like actually, start the application process early. As a junior, we received the same advice but just brushed it off. Senior year goes by FAST. If college applications aren’t done before fall, it can be a stressful time balancing classes and college applications. If you work best under pressure, still try to start earlier. 

Test scores aren’t everything!!!

Test scores are not a representation of what type of student you are, it’s what you do. The extracurriculars are what makes you a unique applicant, not a standardized test that everyone takes. If you’re naturally not a good test taker and plan to go test-optional, use this time instead to do unique activities/internships that would make you stand out from the rest. COVID gives us a unique situation where we aren’t required to submit our scores, use it to your advantage. I applied without submitting my SAT or AP scores and got accepted into a top 50 university. 


Tour as many colleges as possible (preferably junior year)

Only by touring a college, you get a real feel of that college’s culture. Many universities appear perfect on paper, but once you tour, you realize you want nothing to do with that college. Preferably tour colleges junior year during the school day to get a feel of students in their environment. Use up all those excused college absences! If not, the summer between junior and senior year is good as well. 

Don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen 

Your college application is unique to you. With each person that looks at it, their perspective gets added to your story. Your personality needs to shine through the essays, not your teachers. There comes a point where there is only so much you can add to the essays without taking away from their meaning. Find a select amount of people you trust to view your application. You also don’t have to take their advice if you feel it takes away from the meaning. 

Stop watching those Tiktok/youtube videos about college essays

During the college application process, this only adds more stress by comparing your essay to others. If everyone watches the same youtube video, all the supplementals would be the same. Make your application stand out, by having your interests and passion shine through, not what you believe colleges want. 

The supplementals are just as important 

It’s virtually the only part of the college application where you can fully use your voice and show colleges what you’re passionate about. Test scores and GPAs can tell admissions officers a lot about your work ethic, but it’s your essays that show them your character.

Have a trusted adult/peer check your application before you submit

After submission, so many of us found silly errors that could have been avoided. Even if you looked over your application 20 million times, there are parts that your eyes missed, so have someone else check your full application in case there are errors. 

Private colleges aren’t as expensive as they seem                                                     

Currently, state schools are more expensive for me than private schools, so don’t be afraid to apply to private institutions that appear to have an expensive sticker price. What I thought would be my most expensive school is one of my cheapest options. Also, start the FAFSA early and make sure to fill out the CSS.

Ivy status – all worth it?

Many colleges offer full rides, apply to them

Only after I applied, I realized that none of my colleges offered full-merit scholarships. Many of my friends received these from other schools, typically from southern states. Find some schools that offer full rides and apply to them. A lot of schools also cut tuition significantly based solely on SAT scores. There are also many scholarships that if applied by a certain date, you can be considered for them. Look out for these scholarships and apply by these earlier dates. 

Many schools offer no tuition fee and no supplemental essays

Find some schools that offer no tuition fees and apply to them! This will widen your options for colleges without the cost and time of writing an application. Also saves a lot of extra stress if these schools are early action. 

Don’t slack until the second semester of senior year

Grades are extremely important in the college admissions process. Junior year and senior year first semester are the most important (unless your school has early action). Try to keep up the grades until then, then you can fully slack in the second semester of senior year. At that point you are already in college, all you need are C’s or above. 

Apply to early action schools

It sucks waiting till late March or early April for admission results. Do yourself a favor and save some stress by applying early action. It’s stressful when all your friends have committed to schools, and you still haven’t heard any results yet.

Don’t apply early decision if you’re scared you won’t get into a college. 

Don’t apply to colleges for the wrong reasons. I am sure you will get into a college. Only apply for early decision if you are 100% sure you would attend that school no matter what, and that you are financially capable of paying that school’s tuition. 

No need to guilt-trip your admission officers 

You don’t need a sob story to get you into college. What gets you in is your passion and determination. You’re not being accepted because of your life circumstances, but instead of your qualifications. Sometimes the best stories are the stupid ones or the ones about everyday life. 

Don’t feel obligated to tell others where you’re applying or share your essays

It’s called a personal statement for a reason. If you don’t want others to read your story, then don’t share it.  

There isn’t just one “right choice” 

There are over 25,000 universities in the world. Statistically, there is more than one university meant for you. Don’t believe you need to go to a specific school, there are so many others that are exactly the same whether you believe it or not. Follow your gut and what you believe is best for you. 

Going to an Ivy League doesn’t automatically mean you’ll succeed in life.  

Major companies are now preferring those who graduate from a state school with a good GPA rather than those who went to a prestigious university. Where your college education is doesn’t matter anymore. Many successful people are even college dropouts. Remember, you don’t need an Ivy League education to do well in life.   

Be yourself

Highlight your real strengths, no matter what they may be. You don’t have to fabricate/exaggerate information to grab their attention. If you’re honest and every component of your application is consistent with a theme, you’ll already have their attention. Colleges want individuals who will add to their environment, not be a clone of other students. 

After submission, don’t look back

Once your application is submitted, there is no going back, it’s up to fate to decide your acceptances. Don’t look back thinking about what you could have done differently. Just try to forget about it until decisions come out. At a certain level, for some schools, everyone is qualified, and it’s basically a lottery whether you will get in or not.