Advice on the college process from the girls who just went through it

Whether you're a senior anxiously awaiting your first round of college decisions or a freshman who's barely even thought about life after high school, the college process can be scary! But it doesn't have to be. As a recent high school graduate myself, I know how daunting and stressful the process can be. I can assure you that everything will work out in the end. You may not end up exactly where you initially thought you would, but you'll end up where you're supposed to be.

I recently did a poll on my Instagram in which I asked people to share how content they are with how their college processes turned out, and the results are quite reassuring. Out of 80 responses, over 50% of people are 100 percent happy with the process and where they are now, and about 20% of people are 80 to 90 percent content. You'll be okay!

Still not convinced? I reached out to everyone I know who has gone through the college process in the past few years and asked for their most valuable advice. Here's a roundup of the best tips they shared:

For the girl that's not a senior yet: Start early

Sophie W. encourages girls to find and pursue passions you are *actually* interested in while you're still early on in high school. “I think it’s almost more important to have interests that you explore deeper instead of spreading yourself too thin," she shares. “Be true to yourself in the sense of, like, know your interests and follow those passions rather than feeling like you need to do one hundred different things to put on a resume."

Many people also suggested starting to look into colleges you might be interested in before the end of your junior year, and getting as much of the process (writing essays, researching scholarships and actually starting the application) out of the way as possible over the summer.

“I would start the research process a bit earlier. With the large [number] of schools out there, it can be difficult knowing where to start. The more you know about the schools you have in mind, the better equipped you’ll be to make a decision about where you want to spend the next few years.”- Kasey

“I wish I would have researched colleges earlier. I only really started thinking about it fall of senior year, and I mainly just applied where people told me to instead of looking into what I wanted to do.”—Anonymous

"Have a good list of schools by the end of junior year"- Jaden F. 

"I wish I had started the application earlier," shares Sophie W., adding that before the end of your junior year, you can start brainstorming essay responses, put together a resumé that compiles your interests, extracurriculars and achievements and use your resumé to start filling your Common Application (the application platform that most schools use for submissions—there are multiple sections, including a personal info section that is not school-specific) or another application.

"It's hard to balance apps with senior year," Sydney P. adds.

For the girl that's confused: Ask for help and do your research

Some things that might be useful to know about:

“There is a separate website for HBCU applications.”- Eden J.

"Get info about the financial aid process! Ask for help." - Zainab J.

It's also important to look into the specific schools/programs within a university and which courses they offer within different majors/minors. Researching scholarships is also key! They have their own applications and deadlines in some cases, but finding the ones you can apply for and submitting applications early can help decrease the college cost.

“I wish I had known that a lot of good colleges offer really great merit scholarship programs. I would have applied to more of those schools, because it would have made paying for college so much easier.”- Ayesha K.

For the girl that doesn't know where to apply: Keep your options open and think about where YOU would really like to go

Some people said they wish they would have applied to more schools and some fewer. Ultimately, it's about you and what schools you're interested in. Apply where *you* want to.

“The best place for you may not necessarily be the best place where your parents want you to go. At the end of the day, you are the one who will be going to college, so it’s important to go somewhere that makes sense for you mentally, emotionally and financially.”- Anonymous

"I wish I had looked at schools I never thought I would like."- Nina N.

"I wouldn't have let the preconceived notions about schools stop me from looking into them."- Mina G.

“Apply to places for more than just the location!”- Annie P.

"I would shoot my shot at more difficult schools because you never know if you will get in! The college process is very subjective and doesn't really make much sense so just try your hardest.” - Gabriela T.

For the girl that doesn't know what to write her essay about: Make sure it reflects YOU

“Your college essay doesn’t have to be some life-changing topic! I wrote about fish.”- Mia T.

“No matter what topic you choose, you have to show what type of person you are. If you want to talk about how you like going outside and gardening, relate it to what kind of person you are (observant, caring, persistent). As long as you relate it to yourself and use the essay as a way for the admissions director to get to know you as a person, then you will do great! Don't overthink it.. start by making a list of qualities that you want to show about yourself and try to think of a story that exemplifies those qualities.” - Gabriela T.

For the girl that's stressing over rank and status: Remember that a school's "rank" is subjective, and it does not define you or your college experience

“College ranking doesn’t matter!!”- Nina N.

“There’s no such thing as a bad school”- Pooja A.

“You’ll end up where you’re supposed to be. Names don’t matter” - Carolie Cascio

“Stop paying attention to overall school rank and focus on which school is best for your program.” - Rayne L.

“It honestly doesn’t matter where you go to college—just find the place you will be happy!”- Annie P.

“I’m extremely happy with how the process turned out. I ended up going to a school that I never would have thought I’d be attending, especially because during the process I was so caught up in dreaming about going to the competitive state schools all my friends were applying to. I ended up at a school that wanted me to come just as much as I wanted to go there, and I know this is the school where I’m meant to be.”- Anonymous

For the girl that compares herself to others: Commit to your own unique application and process

Your college process is about *you.* It's easy to get caught up in others and who's applying where and who's finished what, but the best thing you can do during the college process is to be super in tune with what you want and what you need to do to get there.

“In the college process you can get really caught up in being that perfect applicant that does all of the clubs and is the president of everything, but [colleges] really just want to see who you are.” - Sophie W.

"I wish I would have listened to and trusted myself."- Bria M.

“Nobody knows as much as they pretend to.”- Mina G.

"I wish I would have had a more open mindset and not paid attention to everyone else’s progress."- Su Shen O.

“If I could go back and do it all over again, I would work on not comparing myself to my friends’ successes/losses in the college admissions process. The system by which colleges choose their students is ambiguous and different across the board — don’t worry about how your results stack up against that of your friends, and know that what one school thinks of you shouldn’t make or break what you think about yourself.”- Anonymous

For the girl that's worried about not getting in: Trust that you did all that you can, and you'll end up where you're supposed to be

“Don’t set your heart on one school.” - Su Shen O.

“It’s literally a game of chances. There’s nothing you can do that will guarantee you admission.” - Aisha F.

“Early decision and early action can really make a difference where you’ll be accepted.”- Annie G.

“Your test scores don’t define you. If you’re really passionate about an extracurricular activity or another area of interest not represented in a number, the schools that are right for you will make sure you know you’re wanted.”- Anonymous

“The college selection process is truly random.”- Mimi H.

“College admissions is a gamble—not getting in doesn’t mean you didn’t deserve to." - Tina J.

For the girl that's overwhelmed: Take a deep breath, and appreciate the process

“Don’t stress!”- Asha R.

“Don't stress too much because everything will work out as it should.” - Kaley K.

"I would have put less pressure on myself"- Tina J.

"Take a deep breath, everything will work out for the best"- Mia T.

"Enjoy the process and don't stress over small hurdles along the way."- Mikella L.

For the girl that doesn't know which school to pick: take your time, expand your vision, and listen to yourself

“It’s not always your ‘dream school’ or number one pick that’s gonna be best for you.”- Meghan A.

“I honestly couldn't see myself anywhere else now that I'm here and it's surprising looking at back at the schools I almost chose.” - Kaley K.

“I really did fall in love with more than one school," shares Sophie W. “There’s more than one school for everyone. I had to come to the realization that I would be happy at any of the places I was looking. It wasn’t as much focusing on a ‘dream school’ and making sure that I needed to pick the right one because at the end of the day, they’re all great schools," she adds. She encourages anyone struggling to decide to do thorough research of each school, make a pros and cons list, contact people who currently attend the schools to get a sense of what life is actually like there, and ultimately trust your gut. And, don't forget to take a few respite days when you're *not* thinking about college.

I wish that I had originally thought more about the programs and whether I could seriously see myself somewhere rather than getting caught up in statistics or how pretty the campus is.” - Kaley K.

“Think about what you want out of life and how college fits into that. Not just short term the next 4 years.”- Anyonymous

"Don’t let other opinions stress you out or sway your decision."- Mia T.

All GIFa via Giphy

by Maya Valmon | 10/15/2020