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Advice to College Applicants

George gives a few pieces of advice for high-schoolers applying to college!

George gives a few pieces of advice for high-schoolers applying to college!

If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you are either crafting your college list, getting ready to send applications, or choosing between a final few.

My College Application season was rough. I made a lot of mistakes, but also made a lot of right choices — and as someone who is fresh out of that process, I think I have some valuable insight.

1. Trust yourself

This is the single most important thing I could give anyone who was in my shoes a year ago. You will have many people influencing your application process; friends, family, counselors, and more. All of these people are here to help you make the best choice for YOU. It’s important to remember who will actually be attending the college you commit to — so don’t enroll anywhere just because it will make someone else happy.

In this way, I’m also just another influence — feel free to disregard anything I say (except my first piece of advice!!)

Students sitting in a theater at the Admitted Students Day Orientation
When I knew I wanted to commit to Carleton (Admitted Students Day)

2. Start early

This is the biggest piece of advice people gave me that I ignored. Even though I thought I was on track, I ended up panicking after I got rejected from my ED school and applied to way too many colleges (18… if you were wondering). And trust me – you do not want to be writing all those essays over winter break.

Start early – and plan well. You can save yourself a lot of time by being organized with your applications. For example, you can save yourself time (and money!) by utilizing Early Action and Early Decision. If you get into one of your top schools early, you can cut down your regular decision workload drastically.

Scoville Hall, home to the admissions team at Carleton College
Scoville Hall, home to the admissions team at Carleton College

3. Understand what you want out of your education

By being on this blog, you’ve already shown interest in Liberal Arts Colleges. Make sure you take some time to think about what this will really mean for your social and academic experience at college. There are no perfect colleges — they all have their pros and cons, and fit certain people better. Just because your best friend or parents loved their college or university, doesn’t mean you will too.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen people (including me) make is only seeing schools for their rankings. Rankings, at their core, are weighted averages of data points with varying levels of validity, averaged out according to an organization’s beliefs on what is important for a school. Unless you think your perspective on the value of education is identical to the U.S. News team, treat rankings with a grain of salt.

Group of students gathered in a circle on campus
See that small group of students? That class is 25% larger than the average class size!

4. Really get to know the schools you apply to

This is one thing I did a poor job of while applying to colleges. So many schools I spent hours writing for, without even knowing If I would choose them over my safety. Colleges list the same similar buzzwords, and it can get very difficult to find meaningful differences between peer institutions. There are lots of great ways to find information from the inside, including reaching out to professors, reaching out to current students and alumni, exploring our admissions blog, and more. I think reaching out to the people who really interact with Carleton on a daily basis: professors and students, is the best way to really get to know the school’s unique character and traditions.

Anderson Hall
Anderson Hall (Carleton’s integrated Science Facility) when I visited campus during Admitted Students Day.

And those are my top four pieces of advice! I hope my advice resonated with you and you feel a little bit better about your application season. Whatever happens — you will end up where you are meant to be.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions about Carleton, or if you just want to hear from a current student!

George (he/him) is a freshman interested in Mathematics, History, and Geology, from New York City. He loves listening to music (currently Big Thief, Elliot Smith, and Kid Cudi), as well as playing the jazz flute and guitar. At Carleton, he hopes to get involved in the Carleton Association of Nature and Outdoor Enthusiasts (CANOE), Carleton’s radio station, KRLX, and more. You may see him wandering around the arb, playing pickup ultimate frisbee, or thrifting in Northfield.