Senior Offers Underclassmen Advice on Applying to College

Elizabeth Bolin, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

The infamous November 1 deadline has recently passed, and the seniors of the Academy are knee deep in college applications and thoughts of the future. As a senior who submitted most of her applications early action, I’m here to give the underclassmen some tips for staying on top of the game.

Your task starts your junior year. The sooner you start researching colleges the better. There are hundreds of websites out there that can give you information about what a school is like, requirements to be accepted and additional details such as cost and social scene. I recommend Niche, but you should probably consult a few sources to be sure of the information you gather. Make a spreadsheet of schools you have looked into, their location, cost, and any other factors that will play a part in your decision. Try to identify what aspect you find the most important. Some great resources are your teachers and upperclassman if you want a more personal account of what a school is like.

After you have gathered a list of schools that you are interested in, plan trips to visit them. An outrageous amount of college trips is not necessary (although fun). Try to visit two or three locations to get a feel for what the area is like. You can always visit a school after you get accepted but showing demonstrated interest (i.e. going on a campus visit/tour) can play a part in the admissions process of some schools.

Keep an eye on deadlines. The first application deadline is November 1, and I highly recommend aiming for this date. The sooner you get your applications in, the sooner you are alerted of acceptance and the sooner you can start preparing for the future. With that being said, start working on your applications and essays before this date. If you decide to use the Common App, try to get it done in early September. If you have questions (which we all do), Mrs. Bain and the other counselors have answers. It’s never too early to start brainstorming your essay, and having a teacher or friend critique it can help you to be more confident in your words.

For many, the essay is the most critical and hardest part of the application process. You have about 600 words to truly sell yourself to a college as well as portray your true self. Most universities take a holistic approach to acceptance, so the essay is especially important if your gpa or test scores aren’t an accurate representation of you as a student. When writing your essay, try to construct it in a way that shows rather than tells who and what you are. It’s not necessary to dive too deep or share personal details, just give whoever is reading it a taste of your voice and personality. Remember, they are reading hundreds of these essays so submitting something memorable is more important than writing an essay that entirely encapsulates who you are as an individual.

Lastly, relax. Notre Dame has set you up for success, and you have many people in your corner prepared to help you with this process. Choosing a college is not about getting into the most prestigious or beautiful university you have heard of, it’s about finding a college that fits your character and your needs. I know that I personally have this fear that I am somehow overlooking the perfect college and might regret my choice for the rest of my life. That will almost never be the case. Growing up can be scary, and this decision might be the biggest responsibility of your life so far, but you’re ready, trust me.