A Guide to The College Application Process

Ashton Flather, Journalist

Something that plagues the mind of many seniors this fall is college. Am I going to apply? How many should I apply for? Should I do ED? What about SAT scores? It is very difficult to navigate all the unknowns of college. Hopefully, this article can give people an idea that can see them on the right track with a topic as ambiguous as where they will spend the next four years of their life.

The beginning of every college process starts with making a list of colleges. “Most students at Ipswich end up applying to around six to eight schools,” says Ms. May, an Ipswich High School guidance counselor. “It is important that students actually want to attend every school on their list.” A comprehensive list should include two targets, two safeties, and two reaches at minimum. There is room to expand in any category, but this is a good start.

According to the College Board, some of the most important things to look for when researching schools, beyond acceptance rates, are location and geography. It is important that students feel comfortable at their college and enjoy the environment. It is also imperative that all of the schools one applies to have their major. Some colleges make all undergrads go in undecided, or do not force freshmen to declare a major. However, even if you are unsure of what you are studying, it is important to only choose schools that have majors that cover at least a few of your interests.

One of the many factors that may be on students’ minds when looking at colleges is financial aid. It is very important to consider this aspect before you apply to colleges. Many colleges have financial aid calculators on their websites that give valid estimates of what the cost would be for prospective students to attend their school, taking into account need-based aid. It is also important for students to fill out financial aid documents such as the CSS Profile and FAFSA. When fabricating a college list, most of the colleges should be in you and your family’s financial range.

Sometimes when deciding what colleges and universities to apply to, many students neglect to take into account the time commitment that they all take to apply. Although the use of applications such as The Common App has made applying a smoother process, schools often have additional supplemental essays and questions that can make application a tedious task. This, on top of keeping up with academics, can be a lot for students. “I have been putting less effort and thought into my academic classes, especially those that are not APs,” says Pia Stewart. She plans on applying to around eight to ten schools, with four of them being EA (Early Action). With classes ramping up on difficulty, many seniors find themselves swamped with work, and little time to work on applications, much less have time to simply relax. This is also an important factor to take into account when applying. If any schools are on your list that you can’t see yourself at, and are applying to just to have another option, take them off your list. It is not worth the work if you would never seriously consider going there.

Another way to lessen the workload of the application process is to spread out your schools between EA and ED (Early Decision). “We recommend that most students apply to their safeties EA , and reach schools RD(Regular Decision),” said Ms. May. She reasons that reach schools want to see growth, and with first-quarter grades becoming available by the time RD rolls around, they have access to that. However, she did preface her claim that if a student wants to go for a reach school Early Decision, she recommends that.

Overall, when looking at the daunting task of applying to college, it is important to take the process step by step, and not to leave all the work off until November. Attend the Common App Boot Camp provided by the guidance department, and start thinking about college early, maybe even starting junior year. Making sure that you are not swamped by certain deadlines is important to ensure that you are putting out your best work. In addition, college is just a stepping stone to the rest of your life, people thrive and succeed at all different types of colleges, and wherever you end up, it is most likely that you will be successful there.