Dani's Tips For Applying to College
Relax: Many people put this at the end of their list of college tips but I think it deserves the first rank. Students get stressed because they go into the college process expecting to be stressed and nothing else. Don't freak yourself out. Don't expect an outcome. Go into the process open minded and willing to have your mind and ideas about your possible future change.
Do your research: Don't simply apply to a school because you're within their average GPA/SAT range, because your friends are, or because they have a funny team mascot. Get online. Find schools that interest you, not only academically, but socially and environmentally too! Do the research. Find a school that sparks your interest. Go to the college visits at school. Schedule actual college tours over school breaks. Find the place that's right for you! You want a school that from the moment your foot hits the campus you just think "this is where I belong." Whether you're interested in small liberal arts schools, large universities, or unorthodox college programs, use your time to find what's right for you.
Don't slack off: While you should be relaxed (see tip 1) you shouldn't be careless. From the common app to school supplements, college apps are all about DATES. If you miss a deadline most of the time there's no coming back from that, it's over. Make sure you know what important deadlines and dates are coming up for you at all times. Put them in your phone calendar. Write them down. Whatever you have to do to not forget.
Stay Organized: I made a spreadsheet with a piece of paper and markers. I put my top schools on one side and on top my categories included important dates, final deadlines, common app (yes or no) and requirements for each school. I also had a "College" folder in google docs and within that folder I had sections for each of my applied colleges. This way my essays were kept organized and separate. (It's never good if your essays are saved all together for different schools because by accident an essay stating that you'd be "perfect for UC Boulder" may accidentally be chosen for your UC Irvine application! So keep them separate!)
Start early: The main factor of college app stress comes from the rush to get everything done in time. So start early, that's all there is to it. Even towards the end of summer just simply think of some experiences you've had or have gone through which have influenced you as a person and brainstorm about effective ways to narrate them — odds are some college will ask you to write about a life experience and then you'll be ready!
Take each essay and at first just read the prompt and start writing. For the first step skip an outline and just jot down details and important sentences that you think highlight who you are and your writing style. From there you can create an outline and write your paper (most of which are only a page at most). The nice part about starting early is that you can start an essay and come back to it a week or even month later with ample time to spare and time to reflect on what you have down and make edits.
Show who you are: Colleges essays and the college process (for me at least) are kind of fun! For once you can show who you are, what you stand for, and what influences you in a paper. You have to write what you honestly feel and think because these papers represent who you are. Colleges look at these papers and say "huh, this girl has a great sense of humor and personality" or "wow, he is really driven and determined." Have fun with it. Throw in details that illustrate you. Don't just use the usual "great" "fun" "awesome" find words that really describe how you felt in the moment!
Believe in yourself: Yes, this is a cliche tip. But, without this tip I and many other students would not be going to their dream schools. If you have a school set in your sights, go for it. Be open for the possibility of rejection. But don't let the possibility of rejection dictate where you apply. If you have a goal, set out to achieve it. Don't just let it sit there while you apply to only safety schools you aren't 100% interested in, knowing that there could have been a possibility of you going where you truly wanted to go. Wherever your future takes you, know that you can and will succeed.
Good luck to you all. Feel free to contact me anytime with any questions about college or life after high school through Facebook: Danielle Kimball
You got this!
Dani Kimball, Drake Class of 2015