College Update: Part Four-The Final Chapter

Final installation in our 'College Update' series from 'someone who is done with everything'

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Tyler Lund

Part 4 the final chapter

For many students the college process is complete and they are already parading around in the colors of what will become their alma mater. Here are some final thoughts and suggestions, from those who survived, to the future generations, who are awaiting their turn to dive head first into the applicant pool.

1. College Applications: With regards to the actual college applications for individual schools, the counselors were dead-on when they said start early and gather as much information as you can. Looking into what schools have to offer and finding what YOU want in a college experience is crucial. Starting the summer before (I know that sounds like crazy talk but read on) can be valuable as it will allow you to make a super long list that you can trim down as you get closer to deadlines. While people do sometimes apply to more than ten schools, it is usually because they had fees waived, can get a special benefit from some of them, or quite frankly have no idea what they are doing. However, for the majority of students having a smaller, condensed list with a variety of suitable schools will serve them much better when it comes to trying to fill out applications and making decisions. I started with 17 colleges on my list and had it down to three schools by the time I was actually sitting down to apply. Being prepared also helps set students up to apply through Early Decision and Early Action to get decisions and be free of college stresses even sooner.

2. Standardized Tests: There are a number of unsavory comments floating around concerning standardized tests, but as they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon they deserve at least a little consideration. The ACT and SAT are considered by virtually every college in some way or another, but be sure to find out to what degree for each college you apply to. There is not one that is definitively better, easier, or soul crushing to endure, so it would benefit you to try both (a first attempt during your junior year is also highly recommended). Studying on your own is doable if you’re motivated about scoring high on either test. One of the biggest things to remember with these tests is that despite all the hype and anxiety surrounding them, they rarely ever come to define an applicant and are merely one part of a much larger application. In the same vein, a perfect score does not necessarily guarantee acceptance to any institution and building a strong overall application takes priority over a few points on the SAT or ACT any day.

3. Financial Aid: At the end of all this when you’re drained, ready to quit, and starting to see the light there is one more teensie little thing to take care of. That monster of a “little thing” is called financial aid. Many students assume too much about this aspect of the college process but the fact of the matter is that anyone willing to work harder and search more thoroughly than the average student can find a reasonable way to finance an education at any institution they wish to attend. Scholarships are so diverse and so abundant that you can be certain anyone who claims to be unable to find a scholarship they qualify for is lying to your face. When it comes to applying try to find and complete more than you actually need. It’s impossible to win every scholarship, so giving yourself some cushion with funds is a good idea. Also, when in doubt, ask for help. The Monarch counselors are an incredible resource and if they don’t have exactly what you need they know the person who does.  Financial aid is tough and just about everybody needs some amount of help. Applications like the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and other serious financial review entities will almost always require the help of your parents as well. Let them know ahead of time to save financial documents and stay aware of the rigid deadlines for these kinds of applications. Also be aware that all of this can be more involved and take longer if you or your family have unusual financial circumstances.