I’d like to start this off by sending all of the good vibes to my fellow rising high school seniors. August first marks the release of the common application, and the start of a very stressful and exciting time for those applying to college. For those of you who are unaware, the common app is a website that applicants can use to apply to most colleges in the United States, Europe, and China. It’s basically a way to condense the application process, which is very much appreciated.

The common app is a website that applicants can use to apply to most colleges in the United States, Europe, and China. Click To Tweet

Anyways, in preparation for the daunting process of applying to college, I recently embarked on a college tour trip in order to maybe gain a smidge of an idea of where I would like to spend the next four years. Along the way, I picked up some pointers and tips and learned what to do and what not to do on college tours. So this is for anyone who is applying to college, at any time, for those who are visiting some schools soon and for those who may not be able to travel for college visits. OK, let’s dive into my top three pro-ish tips.

Visit Schools! Being able to see students really helps. Click To Tweet

1. Visit Schools! Now hear me out, I know I just said this was for everyone, including those who can’t physically go on college tours, I remember! With technology continuing to grow as a huge part of day to day life, it is super easy to find alternate ways to check out a school you are interested in. Many colleges and universities have “virtual tours” on their websites, where you can see the campus, read interesting information about academics, student life and even the history of the school itself. Some schools will also have online information sessions every once in a while where you can get online and ask specific questions to students and admission counselors in order to have a more personalized “tour.” These are both fantastic ways to get to know a school without having to drive or fly hours in order to get to it! If you are able to get to schools, I say don’t hesitate! Though the online tours are fantastic options, being on the campus really helps you to get a good feel of the school and if you think you could see yourself there. Another pro tip, though I would hardly call myself a pro, is to try and visit while there are students on campus! I know this can be difficult as it may mean missing school, but it definitely changes the feel of the school. When I visited Rhodes college in Memphis, Tennessee just a few weeks ago, they were obviously on summer break but were holding a special tour with more students and faculty there to make it feel more realistic. If you can find something like this, I highly recommend it! Being able to see students really helps, which leads me into my next tip.

2. Talk to students! And ask them all of your questions, I’d say 99% of them would be more than happy to talk to you about the school they love to call their second home. I found a lot of connections just through school, camp and random places over the years, but if you don’t have people like this, contact the school! Often, they have student ambassadors who have volunteered to talk to you and answer your questions. While you can get a wealth of information from admissions counselors and faculty, students can give you stores from first-hand experience and won’t sugar coat things that faculty might. I was surprised at just how kind many of the people I talked to were, from tour guides from China to a rising junior in college that I had a class with when I was a freshman! It may seem intimidating to talk to them, but from my experience, it is so worth it! It will also help you to have familiar faces if you end up attending that school.

Have an Open Mind! Don’t box yourself into a certain type of school just because you, or your parents, or your friends think they know what will be a good match for you. Click To Tweet

3. Have an Open Mind! Don’t box yourself into a certain type of school just because you, or your parents, or your friends think they know what will be a good match for you. It is easy to build up an idea of what a school is like and hard to break this stigma, but if you had asked me a year ago, I would have barely considered touring some schools that I ended up loving upon visiting. I asked rising college freshman Charles Blanton about his college decision process and his experience with having to let go of preconceived notions. Charles is excitedly attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall, but, for years, he was set on another school. After working diligently throughout high school, maintaining outstanding grades and achieving leadership through the WakeUp! Club and Student Government, he was admitted to this “dream school.” The problem was, he started to realize it may not be his dream school anymore. For many people like Charles, it is hard to let go of something that you held onto for so long, even when you know it is the right choice. By keeping an open mind and allowing himself to be flexible, he is now on the path that is perfect for him.

Quick Tips for the College Applicant

  1. When visiting a school or at information sessions, have specific questions prepared. Not only does this give you information that is important to you, but it shows engagement and interest!
  2. Use technology to your advantage. Follow schools on social media and engage! Some schools take this kind of thing into account when making admission decisions, plus it gives you a different view of the college.
  3. Interview if possible! Some schools require an interview as part of the application process, some don’t give the option, but if you can meet with an admissions’ counselor, even if it’s an informal meeting, do it. It again shows interest and allows for a more intimate setting to ask questions and show why that school should want you!
  4. Whether you can or can’t physically visit a school, do your research! Make sure the school has options academically that you are interested in, student life that you think fits with your personality, etc. Though it is important to keep an open mind, you don’t want to spend time visiting and applying to a school that is the opposite of what you want.
  5. Some colleges will have optional supplemental writing questions, in addition to the common application if they are on it. Do these, even if they are “optional!” This shows that you are a student that goes above and beyond and gives you more of a chance to show who you are!

What other tips do you have for college applicants? Share your thoughts and follow us @WeRGenZ on TwitterInstagramFacebook, or YouTube