Applying to college has its ups and downs, and twists and turns. And, like a roller coaster, it can be an exciting, joyful ride or a painful, nauseating experience. But unlike a roller coaster, you don’t have to be at the mercy of uncontrollable forces when applying to college. You can take control of the college admissions process and not only ensure a smooth ride, but also a truly satisfying outcome.
“One important key to success is to apply with purpose,” says Debra Thro of College Admission HQ, an online application prep course that can guide your college application from your first list of schools to making your final decision. “This takes a little time and effort but isn’t difficult, and can save you thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of dollars.”
“Applying with purpose” isn’t a step-by-step process, but rather a dance among all five steps in the college admissions process. “It involves an understanding how all these things are entwined,” says Thro, “Most families don’t really understand what’s going on until it’s too late. They often end up with either disappointing results or too much debt, or both. Becoming fully educated about the entire process before even applying to schools will save you time, heartache, and money.”
So how do you “apply with purpose”?
1. Choose the right schools.
Think about who you are as a student and an individual, and discover what college characteristics such as academic rigor, social environment, location, size, and setting, will suit you best. Apply to schools you will be happy to attend, where you can truly thrive, and that you can afford.
2. Submit an outstanding application.
Electronic applications make it very easy for students to send the same, or essentially the same application and college essays to all the schools they apply to. But a cookie-cutter application makes you a cookie-cutter applicant. Add the right ingredients and shape your application in a way that makes it easy for admissions officers to see what a great addition you would be to their freshman class.
3. Understand the financial aid system.
College financial aid is a hornets nest but you can learn how to navigate the system without getting stung. Financial aid clarity is necessary to making decisions that are in your best financial interest. Understand how your financial need is calculated, how financial aid packages are built, and how schools of interest award both merit- and need-based financial aid.
4. Plan to pay the bills.
Estimate your Net Price – the costs you will be responsible for paying – for each school and have a family conversation about who will pay how much. Is it possible to meet these costs in a way that is consistent with your family’s resources, needs and values? Translate prospective debt into actual monthly payments and determine what is reasonable for the career and lifestyle you seek.
5. Weigh your final options.
Once your decision letters and financial aid awards arrive, cut through the noise and carefully evaluate your financial and academic choices to determine which, overall, is your best option. Sometimes this means considering alternatives such as planning a sophomore transfer or taking a gap year.
College Admissions HQ has more than 35 videos that delve deeply into all these aspects of the college admissions process. For more, go to www.collegeadmissionshq.org. During the month of November, TeenLife members will receive a 25 percent discount on College Admissions HQ courses using coupon code TeenLife25.