Student news of Olympia High School

The Olympus

Student news of Olympia High School

The Olympus

Student news of Olympia High School

The Olympus

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The dos and don’ts of applying to college


Applying to colleges can be a daunting and overwhelming process. With so many factors to consider and decisions to make, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what to expect and how to navigate the application process.

Preparing and knowing what you’re getting yourself into can make your application that much more successful at displaying the work ethic and commitment you bring to the table. Whether you’re a senior or even a freshman planning on going to college it can greatly benefit you to know exactly what to do and what to prepare for. 

One thing that can greatly benefit you is before you start filling out applications, take the time to research the colleges and universities that you are interested in. Consider factors such as location, size, academic programs, and campus culture. Create a timeline for when applications are due and start gathering the necessary materials well in advance.

Infographic showing the five most popular colleges OHS students commit to, complete with their ratings from Niche. (Mariana Cruz)

Senior Christine Zhang has been preparing for the college process for a while now.

“One thing I did was create a Google document [during] my senior year with all the colleges, deadlines, and requirements,” Zhang described how she primed herself to make this time of year less stressful. 

Zhang also explained the variety of AP classes and extracurriculars she involved herself in early on to make her options as broad as possible.

To further your preparation, organize your materials: Gather all the necessary documents such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, and your personal statement.

Keep these materials organized in a folder or digital file, making sure to double-check that everything is complete and up to date.

Using this strategy will allow you to complete your application with everything in front of you thus avoiding having to scramble for documents and important information. 

Along with organization, it could greatly benefit you to tailor your applications.

Each college is different, so it’s important to tailor your applications to fit the specific requirements and culture of each institution.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with each college’s mission, values, and academic programs, and make sure to highlight how you would contribute to and benefit from the campus community. Doing this can improve your chances greatly and show how committed you are to the university. 

One thing students consistently worry about is their essays. A well-written personal statement can set you apart from other applicants. Use this opportunity to showcase your personality, passion, and accomplishments. Be honest and genuine, and make sure to proofread for grammar and spelling errors.

“It would drive me crazy if I read an essay with grammar errors,” College and Career Readiness Counselor Jen Boelts explains. Boelts expressed how grammatical errors show that the student has not had it proofread or put in the effort to try and perfect their essay.

“Your essay gives you a chance to tell the school who you are beyond paper,” Zhang says.

Another thing to understand when writing your essay is that it’s not about using big words to display your intelligence. Focus on telling a story and explaining who you are and what you bring to the table.

Many students also forget recommendation letters. Choosing who to write these and why is important for success in this area. Select individuals who can speak to your academic abilities, character, and potential for success. Give them plenty of notice and provide them with a clear understanding of what you are applying for and why.

Most importantly, always make sure to ask for your letter of recommendation in person. 

Overall, the most important thing to remind yourself when applying to college is that this is your future, and while your high school friends may seem like the priority many of these people will not be in your future. 

“Kids tend to forget about the fact that many of the people you’re surrounded with today more than likely are not gonna be around in the future, everybody grows and gains new experiences and friends along the way,” Boelts advises. 

There are a couple of don’ts when it comes to applying, a common theme when discussing how you can jeopardize your college application is the inability to follow directions.

Showing you can follow the instructions and complete the college application in the exact way desired by the university is important and failing to do so may greatly affect the decision made by the college.

Of course, the obvious is to never lie. If caught (which Boelts assures students will be), you will more than likely be rejected from the school. Despite all the stress involved with applying and choosing a college, always remember to stay positive and persevere.

The college application process can be stressful and overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you are not defined solely by where you go to college and that there are many paths to success.

By researching, organizing your materials, tailoring your applications, and staying mindful of deadlines, you can increase your chances of being admitted to the college of your choice.

Keep a positive attitude and believe in yourself as you embark on this exciting journey toward higher education!

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