As one wave of college applications dies down, another one begins almost immediately.
That’s right, it’s that stressful time again, this time for another group of people. If you’re a part of that group (incoming or current seniors, applying to college), you’ve come to the right place.
As a college student (a.k.a. an ex-high-school-senior) myself, I know just how intense the college application process is. But you are not alone on this long journey. There are many resources out there to make the process easier and more effective, and this post will show you 6 of those.
Get ready to bookmark and take note of these resources, and let’s get into the post.
College Essay Guy
Ethan Sawyer, also known as the College Essay Guy, is a popular college essay expert and the author of various bestselling college admission books.
His College Application Hub is home to 40+ blog posts that guide you through the college application process, covering topics such as: creating a college list, EA vs ED, the personal statement, the activities list, financial aid, and more.
In many of his essay-related blog posts (such as the personal statement and school-specific supplemental essays), there are real example essays from admitted students for reference, as well as an analysis of how they did well.
In addition to these free blog posts, the College Essay Guy also hosts paid online courses. The two-part How To Apply To College video course series is an investment worth making if you’d like a hand to hold on to during the application process.
The first part of the series is called “How To Write A Personal Statement.” The live sessions run for 4 weeks on each Saturday morning from September 3rd to October 1st, 2022. Here is the course syllabus, which you can (and should) take a look at if you’re interested in registering for this paid course.
The second part of the series is called “How To Write The College Application + Supplemental Essays” and runs at the same time as the first part, Saturday evenings from September 3rd to October 1st, 2022. Here is the course syllabus for this second part!
Here are a few more key facts about the course series:
- Each part (there are 2 of them) costs $297. You can get a 50% discount on one part if you buy the other, and if you are a low-income student, there is a Pay-What-You-Can option.
- There are video lessons that are pre-recorded and available upon purchase and throughout the time that the course is active (1 year upon purchase). Live Sessions are also recorded and available to view after it occurs.
- The second part of the course includes a 45-page interactive workbook that helps you act upon what you’ve learned.
- Essay reviews are not part of the course, but students can voluntarily submit drafts for a potential review as an example for the group.
This series, though expensive, is an extremely valuable tool for a first-time college applicant. If you feel that you need a strong resource like this one (in addition to or in replacement for other tools like a college counselor), check it out.
The Applying To College (A2C) subreddit is a highly active forum for high schoolers to ask questions that can be answered by college students, admission counselors, admission officers, and other applicants.
There are various comprehensive guides created by Redditors on the platform. Here is the homepage for most of these guides (wikis). There are, of course, specific wikis such as:
- Extracurricular Activities
- Essays (this one is a goldmine)
- Letters of Recommendation
The subreddit is constantly being updated with new question-and-answers, guides written by verified Redditors (like admission counselors and officers), personal rants/vents, and other miscellaneous posts.
For a high school junior or (incoming) senior, the A2C subreddit could be a very dependable toolbox for the most updated– though not necessarily the most trustworthy– pieces of advice. Take everything you see on Reddit (or other social media) with a grain of salt.
Based on my experience, the subreddit is a great tool when I’m browsing the comprehensive guides and seeing my own questions answered. However, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of comparison, self-doubt, and unwarranted stress when you obsess with the posts too much; only use the subreddit when you need to!
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YouTube houses millions of videos that are free of charge to view, and with college applications being such a popular– though seasonally– subject, there are many videos and channels in that niche.
Every year, more and more students and counselors post videos with their own advice and stories about college applications. There is also a trend of sharing one’s “stats and extracurriculars that got me into X school,” where an admitted student reveals high school classes taken, standardized testing scores, awards won, extracurriculars involved in, etc.
While it’s perfectly okay to watch these videos occasionally for inspiration or just out of curiosity, don’t fall into the trap of using these few videos to gauge your application.
The college application process is very random, and it varies for each applicant. In addition, as time moves on, values and opinions change, and so might admission officers’ decisions. You may have the exact same stats and extracurriculars as a past applicant and still receive a different result.
Additionally, remember that out of all the millions of applicants each season, you are only seeing a tiny fraction of them on YouTube. This small number of reference applications means nothing beyond that.
Other than these types of videos shared by admitted students, there are also thousands of channels and videos that provide actual advice. Here are a few of them, in order of personal preference (though they’re all very good!):
- College Essay Guy (yup, he’s on YouTube, too)
- Iris Fu
- Dyllen Nellis
- Chloe Tan
- Haley Kang
Important: anyone can apply for scholarships! In addition, you can apply for scholarships whenever you want– even after you get into college!
Scholarships help pay for the expensive college tuition. On average, colleges can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year to attend, which is a heavy sum for many students to pay.
In addition to financial aid (U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or eligible non-citizens can apply for FAFSA, the United States federal financial aid, no matter your income), scholarships are a great way to get free money!
Many schools offer merit-based scholarships, which are scholarships offered based on your academic/extracurricular performance. Most often, this includes looking at your standardized testing scores.
Additionally, many schools, organizations, and companies also offer need-based scholarships, which are awarded based on students’ financial needs. If you qualify for these, you probably also qualify for a good amount of federal and state financial aid.
Universities often have either early deadlines or supplemental applications for scholarships, so be sure to do your research early! Meanwhile, private organizations and companies have entirely different applications and portals. You can use scholarship finders to search for applications you qualify for, and how to apply.
Here are a few popular and comprehensive scholarship finders:
- Chegg Scholarships
- Your school counselor! This is a good way to find local scholarships (which have a lot less competition than nationwide ones).
Be aware of scams! You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship. If an application asks you to pay, look for another scholarship– this one’s not worth it!
Remember, you can also continue looking for scholarships once you’ve been admitted, and throughout your college career. Students in many universities (after committing) will gain access to a tool called ScholarshipUniverse, another great scholarship finder. Look out for it as your first year of college begins!
An important habit to follow during the college application process is of organizing your applications and your information. Applying to college is arguably an important step in your young adult life, and you don’t want to leave any regrets due to missing deadlines or forgetting to submit something.
There are many things to keep track of: early deadlines, regular deadlines, application fees, portal log-ins, essays, activities’ descriptions, application numbers, scholarship deadlines and amounts…
It might sound overwhelming at first. But the only thing you need here is a system.
When I was applying to college, I used a Google Sheet table to organize all my schools’ applications, as well as my activities and how I was going to describe them. At the same time, I wrote my essays on individual Google Docs and put them on Notion (as an index) to keep track of them.
You can create any system you’d like, on any platform– Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, Notion, a calendar, a notebook… but here are a few key components I suggest you include:
- School name, application deadline, and what type it is (ED, EA, RD…)
- Application portal, log-in, and password
- Major you are applying as
- Number of supplemental essays
- Supplemental essay prompts and word length minimum/maximum
- Scholarship name, deadline, and criteria
If you’d like to go further and download my entire College Planning Pack workbook, check it out below. It includes different planners for multiple aspects of applying to college, all available upon purchase.
Counselor & Older Students
Last but not least, don’t forget that you can get help from your school (or guidance) counselor, as well as older students who have already gone through what you’re about to go through.
Your school counselor should be there to provide you with advice as to what colleges you could consider applying to (based on your performance in school and in school-related extracurriculars), what local scholarships you should apply to, what kind of deadlines you can expect, etc.
In addition, don’t forget that a lot of colleges ask for a letter of recommendation from your school counselor! So if you want a more personalized (a.k.a. better) letter from your counselor, start talking to them early and build a relationship with them.
No one knows 100% what they’re doing when they first start to apply to college. However, after actually doing it, a lot of things make more sense. Try to talk to older students, friends, or siblings about their experiences.
Past applicants have a lot of advice regarding the process, and if you talk to them personally, you can probably receive a lot of suggestions curated for you that you can’t find anywhere else. Here are some questions you could ask:
- When did you start writing essays?
- How did you find inspiration for your essays, or how did you know what to write?
- How did you choose which colleges to apply to?
- Why did you choose this college (the one they’re attending)?
- What are the resources I should be sure to use?
- What are the deadlines I should be sure not to miss?
- What do you wish you did when you were applying?
- What advice do you have for me?
Applying to college and getting into a school should not cost thousands of dollars out of your pocket. These 6 resources are– tried and tested by me– packed with value and will make your application process go by much more smoothly.
If you’re currently applying to college, feel free to comment below with your progress (are you making a college list, writing essays, researching financial aid…) and I’ll try to leave a piece of advice for you!
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