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Applying to College: Image


The Fear Factor

Taking charge of what you can control


Applying to college is putting yourself out there for an anonymous admission committee to judge you. Committee members will look at your program of studies, your level and trends in achievement, and consider this academic aspect in the context of what your specific high school offers. A high school description, or profile, accompanies applications so that admission officers can see the opportunities you have in your particular high school setting.

Using this process as a way to develop life lessons will help you see the bigger picture of college admissions. Let's consider this process of reviewing potential colleges, applying, and making a final decision in terms of life lessons.


Before you apply:

  • What's the purpose of your postsecondary education? In other words, why are you going to college?

  • What do you want to get out of your college experience intellectually - what do you want to fill your head with, what are you curious about?

  • What do you want to get out of your college experience professionally, with consideration to your potential career?

  • What do you expect or want college to do for you personally, such as building relationships, setting boundaries with individuals, and developing stronger communication and interpersonal skills?

  • How deeply will you investigate potential college options? This is not about figuring out if you can get in, but determining what colleges fit your expectations of college?

  • To how many colleges do you wish to apply?

  • What are your expectations of the outcomes of the process - how many choices do you want to have, and how many and what kind of admission risks are you comfortable taking?


During the application process:

  • How do you characterize yourself yourself? Do you have a solid handle of your personal and intellectual strengths? This process should provide you with the chance to reflect on who you have become and an appreciation for the gifts and talents you have developed.

  • What aspects of your intellectual and personal growth and development are important to you?

  • What teacher or teachers will you ask to support your application by writing letters of recommendation for you?

  • What obstacles or limitations have you encountered throughout your high school experience? How have you approached them and what have you learned from them?


Once you have determined what colleges might fit your expectations through your research, you may wish to invest your tie and resources into campus visits. Check the school websites to make sure they are scheduling on-campus, in-person visits. You are strongly encouraged to sign up for information sessions and tours at each college when available, in order to hear the admission philosophy and process, learn about the make-up of the university, and have a baseline of comparison for each university.

Visiting will allow you to gain a feel for the students in attendance, and how visitors are treated. For instance, as you wander around campus with your parent, do students stop and ask you if you need directions? If you have time, stop into the university union or student center for a soda or coffee and listen to the conversations around you. If you don't believe you could find friends there or you don't feel comfortable, it might not be the school for you.

Having said that, use your visits to learn about specific majors and to develop adult relationships. How do technology and engineering intersect or differ at your public university? What are the differences between the programs and your potential job title and responsibilities? Animal sciences at Purdue and at the University of Illinois are very different!

While on campus, meeting with academic advisors may help you  learn more about particular majors and graduation requirements. If you have met someone with whom you might want to speak later, or to whom you may wish to send a thank-you email, ask for a business card. It's odd for you to get used to, but adults in student services are happy to provide you with their contact information so you may make an informed, solid college decision. Practice saying, "Thank you for your time. This has been very helpful. May I have your business card if I have questions in the future?

Applying to College: FAQ
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