The school year is coming to an end, with about a month left for seniors in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District. It’s a magical time of year, really, where students can relax and stop biting their nails since most of testing occurs in May.
One more important thing happens during this time of year: college acceptances. Since March, students have been celebrating (or crying sadly about) their college feedback; whether or not they’ve been accepted, wait-listed or rejected. This has been the source of serious turbulence in my school, and it’s a common event that everyone goes through even if they aren’t going to college.
I’ll tell you right now, when someone doesn’t get into the dream college they’ve been talking about all year, you almost feel like crying with them. I ended up getting accepted into a couple of universities, but I’m going with UC Irvine. I’m also spending a lot of money, but that’s beside the point.
Choosing a college was a bit more difficult for me because the majority of the info I got for it was from friends and teachers who all understood more about it and so, looking back, I feel as though I may have been able to construct an even stronger application. You see, when we go visit campuses and look at the cities, we fall in love with the concept of the city itself, and the life it can present.
Suddenly, the idea of education seems to slip the mind and takes a back seat to the “college experience,” or the student life at the school. Sometimes, it’s just the name we fall in love with, and the brand and status that comes with it.
Whatever the case, we students believe “when I get there” instead of “if I get there;” which isn’t bad, but sadly has caused immense amounts of pain.
When applying to colleges, it’s important to understand several things. First, even though you may fall in love with a specific school or city, you have to make a list of fallback schools or places you would be able to go just in case you don’t make it to the dream school. Make sure that your schools vary because chances are that, if Princeton doesn’t accept you, other Ivy League schools may not either.
If you’ve dedicated yourself to getting into Caltech, there’s no harm in applying for a UC school as well. I know that both Cal Polys are first rate when it comes to engineering. I’ve seen it with my own eyes: kids not getting accepted into four of their five places because they were certain their dream school would take them, and didn’t take the other choices seriously.
It costs about seventy bucks to apply to a college, so don’t just go spending a thousand in applications. I feel that five is a solid number.
I touched on this a bit, but it’s also important to understand what you’re going to study in general. There are a lot of majors that are impacted (meaning there are more people applying than there are open spots) and so it becomes competitive to get into those classes. That said, if you can get accepted straight into a major, it makes competing a little bit easier as you technically have more of a “right” to take needed classes.
There’s nothing wrong with going undeclared, but at the same time it becomes more difficult to get into the classes you may want to take because again, it becomes competitive. I know of a few tricks, such as taking less impacted yet similar majors, and then switching later with some credits. But you’re safer trying to get into the major you want in my opinion.
Word of warning though: some majors are way more selective than others, so be sure you can get into the major if you apply for it.
Finally, you ought to consider your alternatives. Are you sure that a four-year college is something you even want to do? I know that, for me, that idea was crammed into my head since elementary school. But there are alternatives. If you don’t want to study academic subjects but enjoy more technical or physical work, trade schools are a wonderful thing. Welding, beauty school, electrical applications, and all the like are skills that are needed in life and often have a high pay, and these professionals will never see a decline in need.
The other is community college, which some parents and teachers get chills when they hear it. It’s true that community college holds less prestige, but it’s so much cheaper and easier to handle, and the first two years of college are often similar for many majors. After two years of college, you transfer to a bigger university with junior status and move on from there.
It’s almost unfortunate that, at this age, students have to think about what they’re going to do for their lives; and yet it is something that many feel they need to rush. If anything needs careful and long deliberation, it’s college. Because what you do now practically determines the rest of your life.