5 Things I Wish I Knew About Getting Into College

1. Getting accepted is the easy part:

Not to sound negative, but after acceptance, there are still quite a few things to sort out: tuition, FAFSA, scholarships from the university and outside organizations and travel. Scholarship applications tend to be lengthy and in-depth, and may take a while to get back to you. While getting accepted is arguably the most exciting part of senior year, do not check out as soon as an acceptance letter arrives in the mailbox. You still have an exciting but long process ahead of you.

2. File the FAFSA form as soon as you apply:

Nothing is worse than knowing you are in but not knowing if you can afford the school. FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, can tell you what loans you are eligible for and help colleges in awarding institutional scholarships. Even though most schools ask that you fill out the forms by a certain date, it is advantageous to submit them as soon as you can. That way, you can have all the information regarding the cost of the school earlier and make your final decision a lot sooner.

 3. Schedule visits on regular school days instead of special event days the colleges set up:

Watch out for anything specifically dedicated to prospective or accepted students. These tours are often held on weekends and attract hundreds if not thousands of kids. You are usually herded into huge information sessions and tours, and you spend more time with high school students visiting than with the college students giving the tour. It is worth it to take a day off of school to visit a campus on a weekday to see college students in action and maybe even sit in on a class or meet a professor.

4. Do not be afraid to apply to schools that seem out of reach:

On paper, you may not have the grades or extracurricular activities a certain school wants, but do not let it stop you from trying. While it is important to be realistic about the likelihood of getting in, remember colleges just need to give the average SAT or GPA of admitted students as a frame of reference. Reach schools are a great way to challenge yourself, and you may be surprised at the outcome of your effort.

5. Narrow down your list of possibilities by tuition first:

Sit down with parents, guardians or whoever is helping pay for college and tell them what your top schools charge. Make sure to factor in travel costs, room and board, books and miscellaneous costs as well. Eliminating schools that are going to be financially impossible can help you focus in on what schools you really want to spend time applying for. This strategy will also eliminate having to give up a spot at a school because of a pricey tuition when you are making the final decision of where to attend.