The Road to College

Adaptation of photograph by Lawrence OP, available under a Creative Commons

Attribution license. Copyright © 2009 Lawrence OP.

Adaptation of photograph by Lawrence OP, available under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Copyright © 2009 Lawrence OP.

Alex Dockery, Columnist, 2012-2013

One of the most stressful times in a young adult’s life is the transition from high school to college. For me, this time approached  way faster than I anticipated. It feels like just yesterday I was a pigtailed freshmen, anxious about my first day of high school; now here I am,  months away from graduation and I have no idea where the time went. I do know, however, that a huge chunk of my time lately has been dedicated to making deadlines for applications, constantly calling undergraduate admissions offices, and, quite frankly, freaking out. Thankfully, I am almost finished with everything I need to have done before my first year of college starts in the fall. Since I have almost completed my transition from high schooler to college student, I figured I could share some tips on what to do and how to keep sane while doing it.

 

Step One.  Study like you have never studied before for your SATs. A good GPA and good SAT scores open up the possibility to acceptance into a wide range of colleges. Colleges love when you do well on the SATs, so don’t take the test lightly. SAT prep books are extremely helpful for studying, but if you’re like me and there is no way you can sit yourself down for hours going through a book as thick as the SAT prep book by yourself, I would suggest taking an SAT prep class. I took my SAT prep class with Kaplan University and it was extremely helpful. I attended the classes every weekend for about six weeks. You can schedule your classes on weekdays if you treasure your weekend downtime. In the SAT prep classes, we went over what kind of questions we would face in each section and did practice problems. Then, we went over two sections and took a practice test. Throughout the entire class we took about six practice tests. The purpose of taking so many practice tests was to give us a feel of how long we would have for each section, get us less anxious about taking the actual test, and give us a chance to improve with every test we took. Even though getting up ridiculously early every weekend to attend the class wasn’t the highlight of the week, the result made it worth it. So, make sure you work hard every year to keep your GPA up, and study like a madman for your SATs and you will be one happy camper when you start getting those college acceptance letters.

 

Step Two.  Do not procrastinate on applications. Make sure you begin applying to colleges as early as you can. That means getting all of your essays written and recommendation letters in at a timely fashion. I know that doing college applications isn’t the most exciting activity in the world, but since you can’t run away from them, just knock them out! Get them done early so that you don’t have to stress out about them later. The sooner you get them in the sooner you find out if you got accepted. Also, make sure you pay your application fee properly! I say this because on one of my applications, it took me what felt like a year to pay a $25 fee when it should have taken me two seconds. Double check everything and make sure it’s all correct before submitting; learn from my mistakes so you won’t do the same.

Step Three.  Apply for scholarships because you can’t pass up free money. Once you start getting your acceptance letters, start applying for scholarships. I would strongly suggest filling out a federal application for student aid, or FAFSA. I would also recommend  having an adult or someone with some FAFSA knowledge help you because that FAFSA application frustrated and confused me like you wouldn’t believe. Also, make sure your parents file their taxes before filling out your FAFSA because trying to do it beforehand is a big hassle that you don’t want to be a part of. Make sure to always be on the hunt for scholarships. Free money is everywhere, you just have to look for it. I know that filling out scholarship applications is probably more boring and frustrating than filling out college applications but let’s face it, college is expensive! Scholarships are essential to helping you lighten the heavy load that is college tuition, so be sure to search and apply for any scholarships for which you are eligible.

Step Four.  Don’t stress. I know that this step will probably be the most difficult step of them all. Believe me, I have had my fair share of anxiety and freak outs over this whole process, but it only proved to be a huge waste of time and energy. This process is only as daunting as you make it out to be, so just take it all in stride and try not to get too stressed out about it. Leaving high school and moving on to college is a scary thing but it is also exciting. As cheesy as it sounds I am about to embark on a new chapter in my life and I can’t even wrap my mind around the fact that I’m actually becoming an adult. I seriously feel like a nine-year-old trapped in a seventeen-year-old’s body. I have no idea who gave me permission to grow up but I’m anxious and excited about the person I will be when I morph into a full fledged adult. Now that I have gotten a taste of what college is going to be like, I’m already nostalgic about high school.

 

So, I suppose the last step is to enjoy the time you have left as a high school student. Soon enough you will get to experience the joys of SAT prep, applications, and FAFSAs. But for now cherish the time you have left to be young and foolish with your entire future ahead of you.