Applying to college can be stressful, but there are things you can do to alleviate the pressure and help you make good decisions all throughout the process. We asked some of today’s admissions officers what advice they had to offer students about to begin their college applications. What they offered may surprise you.
You’ve been studying for years and years. You’re the only one who knows the type of learning environment that will be the best fit for you. Take that into account when you’re considering colleges. What’s right for your sister or your best friend may not necessarily be right for you—and that’s okay because schools come in all shapes and sizes.
Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who have no meddling relatives or friends, but we’ve seen this happen enough to warrant mentioning it—don’t let someone else tell you where you should apply. If your parents are paying for your tuition, you may be inclined to give their advice more weight than your natural instincts about where you should go and what you should study but it’s not worth it in the long run: You’re the one who is putting in the work so you’re going to want to make decisions that make you happy for the next 4+ years.
Try before you apply
You may think you know a school from its reputation or from the image portrayed by its website, but you’ll never know until you go. Schedule a visit to really get a feel for if you’ll be comfortable in the environment. Bonus: Visiting will give you a chance to stop by the Admissions Office so you can start making connections there.
Applying to college is exciting, but don’t start filling out your application until you’ve read through all the instructions and fine print. Do this and you’ll know up front what’s expected and be able to plan and prepare so you have more than enough time to meet your deadlines.
Go your own way
There’s more than one way to achieve your goal of a successful career in health care. Some students graduate from their undergraduate program and head straight to graduate school. Others want work experience first, so they take a year off. Some students take their standardized tests one time and achieve a score that ensures they’ll be accepted by their school of choice while others take tests multiple times before feeling satisfied with their results. There’s no right or wrong way—only what’s right for you.
Ask for help
You’ve written your essay, compiled all of the necessary pieces for the application and are ready to submit—after all, you’ve read through this packet of information about a million times. Don’t! Ask someone who hasn’t looked at your application before to give it one final review before you click submit. You’ll be thankful if they catch typos, omissions or other errors no one else did.
Practice honesty, not perfection
If you’re perfect, that’s great—give yourself a hand. If you’re not, no big deal! It’s okay to show imperfections on your application. Note any less-than-ideal test scores or gaps in experience honestly and use your personal statement as a place to demonstrate what you learned from your mistakes or how these imperfections make you unique. Whatever you do, don’t exaggerate any achievements or abilities. Honesty is better than artificial perfection.
Pad your timeline
This applies to your own to-dos—you don’t want to wait until the last minute to craft a personal statement—and to those that you’re assigning to someone else, too. Ask your teachers if they’re willing to write a recommendation long before the due date and be sure that they know when the due date is so they can deliver in a timely manner. Here’s a hint: Asking for a recommendation the day before you go on a holiday break might not be the best timing.
Have a safety net
You likely have one or two colleges that you’ve had your eye on for a while, colleges that you feel destined to attend. That’s great! But you also need to have some safety schools that can serve as backup on the off chance that you aren’t accepted into your dream school.
Breathe deeply (and often)
Finally, a tip that will serve you now and also later: breathe deeply and often, take time for yourself and remember you’re just at the starting point of your health care career journey. Getting through your college applications is just the beginning, but can also be a time when you develop good habits around time management, organization and self-care.