The months of April and May can be incredibly stressful times for many of our students as the college application process looms before juniors and seniors are in the final stages of making their college decisions. The mission of Proctor's College Counseling department is to foster students’ academic, intellectual and personal growth while empowering them to take ownership of the college process and their futures. We find the students who find the greatest success in the college admission process are those who understand their abilities, passions and interests, and are therefore able to find the “right fit.” Historically, Proctor students have had the motivation and the self-awareness to make such matches. They trust their hearts and inner-self, allowing insight, not college rankings, to guide their post Proctor careers.
As parents, advisors, teachers, and coaches, we all have to help our students embrace this process of finding the right fit. Here are ten tips to help mitigate stress and anxiety in the college process!
1. Meet Students Where They Are
Let the timeline be fluid. There is so much growth and maturation from the start of high school to the junior year. What is more remarkable is the change that happens through the summer between junior year and senior year. College/university professionals know this and are curious about the growth. Don’t try to jump start the process before the student is ready.
2. Read, Read, Read
The benefits of independent reading are real for our students. Multiple studies indicate that independent reading correlates to higher results on standardized testing, and not just on the reading and writing.
3. Take Time to Reflect
Students often start with colleges they know by name, or where they can pursue a specific degree or major. Living and learning at Proctor provides a valuable gift and students are encouraged and guided to understand their learning styles; they are experimenting with a living setting that allows them to grow socially. Use this knowledge of self to dig further into the learning and living opportunities at the schools on the list. Ask the following: What classes do you like the most and why? Are you drawn to classes with real world application or are you passionate about opportunities to ponder unanswerable questions. The list in the end should be created with a high degree of self-awareness. When this occurs, the school of choice is more likely to be a good fit.
4. Beware of the “Right Fit”
Too often students and families approach the process with an idea that there is a single school that will fulfill the student’s every need and want. There are multiple schools for every student. A good fit is often a combination of factors – maybe even some the student has not identified yet. We encourage you to write down impressions after a visit, research the college website, follow up with questions to the admission office. Physical writing helps the student remember and the information will be helpful when the college asks for an explanation of the student’s decision to apply.
5. Don’t Over Test
Do not over do it with standardized testing. Juniors take an ACT and an SAT. They get a feel for which one is more appropriate for them and then focus on the one test for the fall. Three should be the maximum.
6. Be Open Minded
Be open to colleges that may have changed or you have not heard of before. Many colleges are household names, but many have also evolved since parents went to college. Regionally, some colleges are more popular, and students are better able to pursue colleges in other regions than they were 30 years ago.
7. Look, Listen, and Feel – Beyond the Bricks and Mortar
When visiting take the time to get to know the area. Explore beyond the tour, grab a snack at the student center, read the bulletin boards, pick up and read a student newspaper. Talk to students that were not hand picked by the admission office. Watch how students interact with each other and faculty. Try to connect with people you know who attend the college you are visiting. Do not try to visit more than two colleges in one day. These are all tips we encourage prospective families to utilize when selecting a school like Proctor, so be sure you do the same in the college process!
8. Variety is the Spice of Life
Not all colleges do things the same way. Applying to prep schools is fairly standardized: take the SSAT, tour campus, interview, be sure your application is in by February 1, etc. Colleges vary widely! Fewer and fewer colleges are offering interviews, and they have application due dates that range from rolling to as late as April 1st. Decisions are released throughout the winter and early spring. Keep track of the dates (we like spreadsheets), note the differences, note any special requirements. “The devil is in the details”.
9. Do Not Let the Decisions Define You
Yes, colleges will do some sorting based on course selection, GPA, test scores, and a variety of additional factors that will make up the composition of an admitted class. Priorities shift from year to year. Admission officers are looking for students who will be successful academically and enrich the community. Not being offered admission does not diminish or invalidate a student’s merits or accomplishments. So often colleges say they just didn’t have enough room. Be sure you do not allow a college's decision to define you.
10. Embrace the Present
Live in the present. Make the most of high school. Students who do this tend to thrive during high school years. They look forward to going to classes, activities, sports. Regardless of individual achievements, students who are genuinely committed to making the most of high school are able to approach college with a greater self-awareness and confidence – they are reflect on their activities/interests when asked and can formulate mature, sincere, and compelling responses when responding to questions in the process. Embracing the present turns out to be the best preparation for the future.