By Polly Terzian
There is not one “process” in the journey to finding the right college, because every student takes a different approach in the search for an institution that is a match for them. Some do not even attend college immediately after high school. Instead, they choose to take a gap year at home or abroad. Others take on unique adventures, such as joining the Peace Corps. There are probably as many options in the college process as there are in the pieces of mail students receive from various institutions in their junior year of high school.
My college journey has yet to be completed, but it has come a long way since its beginning. First and foremost, I would not be as far along with it if it were not for the help and support of my parents. No student can embark on this long ride alone, but with that being said your parents do have their own ideas of what is right for you and you have yours. The majority of the decision process falls on the student, as the student is the one who will be living at his or her chosen college for at least four years. Every student needs to develop a clear idea of how they want to spend the next very important chapter of their life. This picture is not easily painted since there are a series of influences and pressures along the way.
The bulk of student work that college admissions officers scrutinize is completed during the last portion of junior year, unfortunately all at the same time! Every student’s transcript is pretty much finalized, most of the standardized tests have been taken, and a resume showing extracurricular activities is completed. Stress levels build as you crunch out all of the numbers that colleges want to see in grade point averages and test scores, and face the growing competition for college admissions.
Most high schools, like most colleges, have a whole data set full of statistics pertaining to acceptance rates and test scores and anything else relating to the collegiate journey. Students can ballpark where they fit in relation to their grades and to other graduating classes. Let’s face it; no one wants to be near the bottom of those statistics and, yet, no matter what your strengths are statistics are only numbers. On the bright side, colleges analyze more than digits. Most emphasize the importance of the essay, because you are able to write about a topic that reflects who you are – which is much more than a number.
Beyond the focus on how you are judged as a student, don’t underestimate the importance of the research you do for the application process. There is a lot of hype about many well-renowned schools. There are many, many colleges where students can enjoy world-class resources in an environment suited to their learning style. The name doesn’t matter in a college, it is what you do and take away from the college experience that makes a difference.
The college process can be as difficult and challenging or as simple and easy as you make it. In terms of my specific journey, I have followed these principles to keep moving and searching for what I know I want: The outcome of my college search reflects the effort I put into it. I should make my own path, and whether it takes me on the route I planned or not I should be open to the detours that might occur along the way.