Conquer the dreaded college apps: Firsthand advice on how to get through the process!

Ana Espinoza, Editor-in-Chief

Although applying to college in the United States is an increasingly confused mess of deadlines and inequity, it’s also a really important thing that you have to do. So here’s some college application advice. It’s partly extracted from my own experiences, but mostly stolen from other people that I’ve talked to:

• Start your essays the summer before your senior year. Most people end up not doing this but wishing they did. If anything, write your Common Application essay (the one that will go to most of the colleges you apply to) before school starts, so you can leave time for a few people to look it over. Writing well is a lot easier when the only other pressing thing on your schedule is finishing Orange is the New Black.

• Apply to schools you want to go to. This is obvious, but don’t apply to seven extra colleges that you don’t like because they’re just “really good schools,” or places that you will definitely get into. The application process is a lot less stressful if the prospect of attending most of the colleges you’ve applied to isn’t totally unnerving.

• Make a list of deadlines. Don’t forget to include application deadlines from each college, which can vary, financial aid deadlines, and scholarship application deadlines. This information can come from a lot of different sources, so it helps to have it one set place on a single document.

• Visit the schools you’re applying to. You can do this during your junior year or after you’ve been accepted to several schools. A visit can communicate more than a website can, like whether or not students will give you directions if you ask them, or if you find classes engaging. It’s also a good chance to talk to admissions representatives in person, which I should note is way more important in aiding your decision process than somehow boosting your chances of admission.

• Don’t fixate on your intended major. Actually knowing what you want to do with your life is great, but your goals might change unexpectedly. In other words, don’t choose a college only because it offers the program you want to study, because you might take a class that makes you think differently.

• Be honest in your essays. This sounds like an empty cliché, but a lot of clichés are true. People notice if your writing sounds too polished or too romantic. But they also notice when you’re being honest, and that usually happens when you’re writing about true, ordinary things. Pretend you’re talking to someone that you’ve known as long as your parents, but without having to hide anything that dumb old people like that just wouldn’t get. I think that some measured informality goes a long way.

Remember that where you go to college doesn’t really matter that much. In high school, everything that you do or choose to do seems to matter a lot, but it really doesn’t matter any more than what you do when you’re 12 or 75. Likewise, a 2011 study found that attending an elite college had little impact on earnings or job satisfaction. Where you go to college matters less than what you accomplish there. It just matters that you go.