written in the fall of 1999, and then posted on the In My
Backpack web site in 2003, the following essay as it appears
here has been touched up a bit from those early presentations.
As just a few examples, please keep in mind the original date
when looking at things like the application fees noted or when
it doesn’t heavily discuss e-mail, web sites and social media
is far from perfect in its advice as I review it in 2018. But,
I think it does contain a few points worthy of consideration.
~ ~ ~ ~
time of year has arrived when thousands upon thousands of individuals
will begin the process of applying to colleges. Over the years,
many books and seminars have offered guidance for applicants.
However, there are some lesser-known thoughts about the process
that are frequently understated, if they are mentioned at all,
and have the potential to save you lots of money while making
the experience a bit easier. Let’s dive right in…
at all possible, visit the schools you are applying to. Yes, you
are going to be spending a lot of time around campus, which makes
a visit a good idea on the most basic of levels. But think about
this twist… a person applying to college needs to understand that
each school is treating this very much like a business. Just as
the applicant is trying to “sell” their candidacy, a school is
trying to portray itself in the best view possible. Toward that
end, brochures, television advertisements and internet sites only
show views the school representatives have approved for you to
see. Images have been tirelessly reviewed by campus public relations
or admissions departments, and they are all selected to promote
a positive representation of the campus. There is nothing wrong
with this, and several things to be gained. But keep in mind that
they rarely show whether there is a pizza parlor or convenience
store nearby. They won’t tell you that traffic and parking are
horrendous. There will be few mentions of housing limitations
or headaches. They don’t show you the hills and stairs that are
monstrous hazards in bad weather.
with the visit the campus idea: Most schools have programs for
organized visits, which often include a campus tour or opportunity
to speak with students. These moments will provide countless tips
and insight about the school and its environment. Asking current
students about meal plans, the bookstore, whether or not to have
a car or what the best approach is for living at the school (dorms,
apartment nearby, etc.) and more will generate amazing answers
and quite likely countless unexpected nuggets of great advice.
The experiences gained from these interactions can provide some
of the most valuable information in selecting a school.
the deadlines for applications, as most schools have two. The
first is known as regular admission, and generally closes in late
February or March. The second is referred to as early admission,
with deadlines usually ranging from December into January. Do
your best to apply to a few schools early. College applications
can cost between $50 and $100 for each school. This does not take
into account postage, requests for additional records, and any
other materials that might need to be obtained by the applicant.
First… if six to eight schools are being considered, this might
reflect a total of $300 to $800 just for applying. However,
the responses to early admission applications are often sent out
well before the regular admission deadline. So, if perhaps a person’s
top three choices are sent in early, there is a good chance that
if accepted to one of these programs the applicant will not need
to send out some or all of the remaining three to five applications.
In this example that means possible savings of $150 to $500 in
fees. Second… you might need some help in completing your applications,
such as recommendation letters and school records. If some of
that assistance ends up running late, focusing on the early deadlines
has a small bonus of meaning that the materials will likely be
available so you don’t miss the regular application deadlines.
early also has other advantages. Some schools follow what is called
“rolling admission” where applications are evaluated beginning
in the late summer or early in the fall semester and are responded
to as they arrive. By applying earlier, a candidate stands a better
chance of admission. Schools normally only accept a certain number
of students each year, anticipating a specific number of accepted
students to eventually enroll. Admissions representatives understand
that individuals are applying to multiple programs, and as such
all those accepted will not ultimately attend. As a result, years
of research and records develop a number of guidelines for this
process, which essentially means that if a school is looking to
have a certain number of incoming students, the admissions officers
know approximately how many applicants will need to be accepted.
As the school gets closer to that pre-determined number, it can
become more difficult to be flexible with the admissions criteria.
Also, many schools, such as those with strong art programs, offer
things like competition-based scholarships and contests. In many
cases there are early deadlines for these, and for an incoming
student to be eligible to participate all application materials
may need to have been submitted.
for alternative resources that are available on all subjects.
A topic such as financial aid is often a concern for many students
and parents. Most public libraries have information on loans,
scholarships and grants in their reference sections. Local bookstores
will carry these materials as well. Your school guidance office
and town or city hall may be consulted not only for national or
institutional programs, but also for programs available specifically
to local students. And for people with internet access, a search
engine can be used to find countless links to specific sites or
to college can be a costly, stressful, and long process for anyone.
In most instances it not only impacts one specific individual,
but also parents, brothers and sisters. However, by investing
time early and thoughtfully in the process to organize information
and resources, there are many ways to make the journey a more