By Katie Malachuk
Doing your homework on schools is a huge part of the choosing. Don't just apply to Wake Forest because the hottie in calculus says it's a great place.
Think for Yourself on This One.
You can find other ways to impress the hottie in calculus, like sharing your research on Wake Forest. None of this stuff on how to research schools is rocket science. If anything, you're up to your ears in it already. What I want to emphasize is that you're doing research to see what you think about a school; keep the focus on whether or not you want to go there. It's not about applying to where you think it would be cool to be accepted or applying where other people want you to apply.
Do Your Research.
When doing homework on colleges, school websites are a great place to start, as are school view books. I hear you—these websites and view books can start to look the same. But they really aren't. If you spend some time with them, you'll get not only information on all of the offerings but also a feel for the culture and values. One applicant found that she wanted to read the view book for Duke over and over again, whereas she gave the one for Colby to a friend. Her instincts were starting to speak out as to where she wanted to be. Plus, from the websites and the view books, you'll get a sense of what you want to join or start, which you can speak to in your essays.
Schools often have student representatives you can speak with or e-mail to get more information. They can be a great source on the current state of affairs at a school. Same goes for alumni—the more recent, the better.
See if the schools are hosting panel events in your area, even at your high school, with admissions reps and/or alums. These tend to come up more for graduate schools, but undergrads host them as well.
Alums, especially those who attend recruiting events, love to gush about their schools. They will give you a good flavor for the place. Remember, though, everything that students and alums say is filtered through their personal experiences. So take it with a grain of salt, meaning know that your prioities and interests will define your experience.
Pay Attention to Your Gut Instincts.
There are so many voices in your head as you make your way through the college application process. Our minds chatter all the time. They skip about to the past and future, resting anywhere but the present, telling us all kinds of stories about ourselves—what we can and can't do, what we should and shouldn't do. But now you also have the opinions of many outside parties: parents, siblings, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, classmates, teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, college advisers, admissions consultants, friends of parents, parents of friends, friends of siblings, siblings' friends, bloggers, writers, the checker at the grocery store, whomever. (And some of these are helpful, but some not.) Everyone is ready to ask you a question and give you a thought on your college applications.
But the Only Voice That Matters is Yours.
And I mean that inner voice, the wisest part of you, the part that already knows the answers. You just have to ask and listen. Your inner voice isn't part of the chattering up in your head. It's the voice that comes from your heart and your gut; it's your intuition. Listening to your intuition is about trusting yourself. It's about feeling your instincts and following them. The less you trust yourself, the more you listen to all of those outside parties and their opinions. The less you trust yourself, the more you give in to the fearful voices inside your busy mind that say you are less than, that you don't deserve more, that you can't do this. As your confidence grows, so too will your capacity to know what is right for you.
Let this application process be practice for making decisions for yourself, which is a crucial piece of living a healthy, honest life as an adult.
Katie Malachuk, MBA, has served as director of admissions for Teach for America, worked for a top-tier management consulting firm and an education-focused start-up, found success as an MBA admissions consultant, and helped high school students through the college application process on a pro bono basis.
Adapted from: You're Accepted
By Katie Malachuk
Published by Kaplan Publishing.
Available at kaptest.com and wherever books are sold.