Since the pandemic began a couple years ago, the college admissions process has become all the more complex. This past year, most colleges and universities saw a record number of applicants. Here are some pieces of advice that I gathered from the senior class.
Explore. St. Louis is centrally located. Within a few hour drive, you can visit these three very different types of colleges. Visit a larger school like Mizzou or Purdue. These are often public universities. Visit a mid-size school like Saint Louis University or WashU. Visit a smaller institution like Benedictine. By visiting these three types of colleges, you will realize what size will fit you best. The location of these universities is also different. Do you want to be in a larger city or a college town? When you begin looking at colleges, the college counselors will provide you with a list of prospective universities to look at. Check out their websites and videos on YouTube, then if you like what you see visit and see what you think.
Keep your options open and stay open-minded. With the craziness of the college process, many students may get rejected from colleges they really wanted to go to or deem their “dream school.” You can’t have one “dream school.” Apply to a bunch of schools that you may like. Chances are that one will surprise you. However, if you visit a college and realize that you do not like it, eliminate it. It will save yourself stress and time in the long run.
Take notes. Every senior I talked to says that they wish they took notes during and immediately after their college tours or info sessions. Write what you like and don’t like. When you visit two or three schools in a weekend, it will be hard to remember the small things you liked which made the school stick out. These notes will help you recall these things. Your notes will also help when discussing the pros and cons of a school with your family.
Use the resources available to you. Priory is one of the only schools to offer a class fall term senior year which is dedicated specifically to the college process. Use this time wisely. It will help you knock out many of the small time-consuming things on the CommonApp. If you use this time appropriately, your workload will be reduced significantly. All you will have at home should be supplemental essays. Next, during the summer going into your senior year, you will have the opportunity to take advantage of a college essay writing workshop. My recommendation is to take the August class because by then the exact Common App essay prompts will have been released. You can also take the same class in June. During this class, your goal should be to write something that you believe can be a good starting point for your general essay that goes to every school. You will not finish your essay. After this class, leave your essay alone for a couple weeks before revising it. Chances are that you may want to take a new approach to the essay or you may remember something else you want to add. Try to do this a couple of times. By leaving the essay alone for a week or two here and there, it will be like a new set of eyes reading over it. Writers often gloss over the small things when we read the same essay over and over again. Lastly, the college counselors have an open door policy. Don’t be afraid to use this opportunity. Communicate.
Don’t be afraid to look for help. As a Priory student, we are used to being independent. However, you are not alone in this process. Ask teachers, your parents, or even your peers to read over your application or specific supplemental essays. Chances are they will have some helpful feedback.
Don’t be afraid to explore ED. If you LOVE a spot, don’t be afraid to apply Early Decision. Although this is a binding contract, if you love one particular school, this will improve your chances of being admitted during this very competitive environment. With that being said, not every school offers this option.
Do what you enjoy and dedicate yourself to it completely! Priory offers every student the opportunity to get very involved if you choose. Pick a few things and stick with them. If you don’t enjoy something, drop it and try something new. When choosing what to be a part of, don’t spread yourself too thin. Less is more if you are making an impact in the communities you are a part of.
Begin your resume as a freshman and update it as you progress through high school. This will save you time later on trying to recall everything you have done. It is also a quick way for any admissions representative to get to know you.
Be confident, but trust the process and the support you have. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. If you are a student at Priory, you are a strong capable young man, but we all face obstacles in our lives. Ask questions. This is a learning experience.
College Counseling is changing all the time. If you are confused, ask your college counselor. If they do not know the answer, they will look into it for you. Every family will hear slightly different myths, for example those about standardized testing. There is a lot of misinformation out there.
Use your Priory connections. Priory alumni go to institutions all over the country. Some schools are more popular than others, but chances are you may know someone at that school. When visiting a school, check if there are any alumni you may know who go there. You do not need to know them very well to reach out. We are all brothers. Chances are that if they are free, they will be more than willing to meet with you when you are on campus. If not, they will answer your questions over social media or on the phone.
Have fun! Although stressful at times, the college search experience can be fun. Try to find the hidden gems of the college towns/cities you visit. They will be worth it.