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Friday, August 02, 2013

Advice for Applying to College

By Lauren Ritter
NSHSS Student Council Member, Cornell University 2013

When I was applying to college, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to go to a small university close to home and I wanted a school with high academic standards. Unsure of where to start, my parents helped me create a list of schools which fit the criteria above and seemed like they would be a good fit.

I was going through pamphlets that colleges sent me with my mom one day during winter break when I came across one that I hadn't noticed before. I opened up the "Big Red Book" and was amazed by what I saw. Across seven colleges, this specific university offered around 75 unique fields of study and one caught my eye instantly. At that moment I knew I wanted to study Human Development, so on December 31, I applied to Cornell University.

I wouldn't recommend applying to a school the day before its deadline; it's a risky endeavor, and for me, one that included knocking on the closed post office's door and asking someone to do me a favor and postmark my envelope for that day. My story is for all of the high schoolers and their parents that are beginning to look at colleges. As someone who has been through the entire process and experienced just about everything, I'd like to offer some advice.

1) Create folders for the schools you're interested in. Whenever you get something in the mail from a school, put it in the folder. Also, as you complete the applications for the schools, put copies of the completed forms in the folders for your own records. This will help keep you organized and on top of everything.

2) Buy a college guide book. One of the best investments I made during the college application process was buying a book that had statistics on all the colleges I was applying to. It gave me a feeling for the schools and helped me narrow down the list of schools I wanted to apply to.

3) Don't rule a school out just because it doesn't fit your exact criteria. I thought that Cornell was too big, too far away and too different from the other schools I applied to. You might be pleasantly surprised if you give a few schools like this a chance.

4) Try to visit before you apply. A school may look great on paper, but trust me, you want to be able to walk around the campus (and check out the dining halls and dorms) before committing if you get in. If you're going to spend four years somewhere new, you'll want to feel at home once you step on campus.

Watching my sister go through the college application process this past fall has brought up all of the memories from four years ago. I am really happy that my mom encouraged me to broaden my scope and apply to Cornell. The minute I stepped onto campus, I knew I was home. I hope all of you have that same feeling when you apply schools in the coming years.