Applying to college is one of the biggest steps any high school student takes in their education. The enormity of the process and decision can be incredibly stressful. I myself can attest to this as I went through the struggle this last year. The goal of this article is to share some personal experiences that I believe can help prospective applicants, and give some tips to finding the right college for you.
The first and most important thing in the college application process is to not worry about where anyone else is applying to. Comparing yourself and the schools that you are applying to is the worst thing you can do. You may have friends or peers who are applying to the top schools in the country, while you aren’t. You are your own person, and you know what you value in school. Finding the best fit for you is the goal, not finding a school that you think other people will like.
One of the most basic steps is figuring out the type of environment that you want to be in. Do you want to be close to home, or far away? Would you be okay with your campus being in a big city, or would you prefer a smaller college town? Is there something specific that you would like the city to have? Would you want your city to have lots of museums, pro sports teams, or parks? These are all important things to consider when choosing a location. Every answer to these questions is equally correct, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to give a response one way or another. Additionally, touring a university is one of the most important things you can do, and I highly encourage it when possible. I toured a university that, on paper, I loved. It had a great department in what I wanted to do, a beautiful campus, and checked a lot of my personal boxes. When I got there, I absolutely hated it because of the location. Changing your mind about colleges throughout the process shows growth, and there is no need to feel pressured to apply to a school because you liked it at one point.
Once you’ve found some locations you like, it’s then important to figure out what type of campus fits you best. Do you like the bustle of a major state university with 40,000 students, or do you prefer a smaller school with under 10,000? What about schools somewhere in between? Being fine with any size of school is totally okay—I applied to both schools with over 60,000 students and those with under 5,000. A general rule of thumb is that private schools will be smaller than public schools. Looking at campus life is also essential. Do you want to go to a school with a big emphasis on sporting events, or one where it is much more laid back? What about Greek Life?
Another important step is figuring out what major you’d like to apply for. You don’t need a career end goal in mind (although that is helpful for some), but look for something that interests you. It doesn’t matter how professional it sounds – if it is important to you then it matters. If you are stuck, asking your parents or teachers who you trust for ideas is a great resource. Generally, changing your major has become easier and colleges are very accommodating. You also have the option to apply to a specific school within a university (school of social sciences for social studies, school of natural sciences for more traditional sciences) and not a specific major.
Once you have a general idea of what you want to do, see what the college has to offer for your area of study. Are you able to conduct research or work in a lab as an underclassman? Can you study abroad, and if you can, do the places they offer appeal to you? Do the professors teach classes that excite you? These classes don’t have to be related to your major at all. For example, I will be taking a sports management class next year because I love sports. It has nothing to do with my political science major, but I am taking it because it is something I care about. Don’t worry about how all of your classes connect, just do what you care about the most.
I hope that I have provided some ideas about how to approach your college application journey. Robin’s Nest Tutoring wishes you luck in your college searching process!
This article was written by Nathaniel Nokken. Nathaniel is a senior at Lubbock High School. In addition to tutoring, he is an active member in the band, involved in UIL competitions, and is a Research Assistant at both the Texas Tech Peace, War & Social Conflict Lab, and the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
This article was edited by Helen Xie. Helen is currently a junior at Lubbock High School. She is involved in many extracurriculars in addition to volunteer work, including Model UN, Lubbock High’s GSA, and Robotics.