Counselors, graduates provide advice during college app season

As many senior students begin the treacherous process of researching and applying to colleges this October, counselors and graduates alike are working to provide them with valuable advice.

Given the gravity of the choice ahead, many seniors are confused and stressed. Some are even unsure where they should start.

Jesmin Atker, an admissions counselor at the Stark regional campus of Kent State University, described what she felt was the most important first step to take.

“When you start considering colleges, the biggest factor is making sure the college has the major you want to pursue,” said Atker.

Kaylee Watkins, an admissions counselor at North Carolina State University (NC State), agreed.

“Even at a big university like NC State, not every major is offered. We get a lot of people asking for majors such as nursing, for example, which we don’t have,” she said.

Aside from majors, other factors named by these experts included, location, college size, and costs and scholarships. Scholarships in particular were also emphasized by students who have already gone through the process. 

AT alumni Anthony Perez, now a freshman at Illinois State University (ISU), was one of these students.

“If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to definitely apply to more scholarships,” said Perez. “They make a difference.”

He also mentioned that organization can help with this task. 

“What made the process hard was having all my necessary information ready, especially when applying for financial aid. Make sure to have your parents’ tax info ready,” he said.

Scholarships, big and small alike, can be found across a variety of locations. Most institutions have hundreds of small scholarships, which can add up, available to students who are willing to apply.

“Look for lowkey scholarships, at every college you apply to,” said Cristal Moreno-Aguilar. Now a freshman at Augustana College, Moreno-Aguilar graduated from AT last year.  “Many kids don’t even know the schools offer these.”

Within their advice, counselors and alumni recognized the stress bundled with college decisions. They all discussed the importance of staying calm, organized, and getting on top of the process.

“Just breathe,” said Moreno Aguilar.  “I remember I was really stressed out. Keep reaching out and stay persistent. Get it done now and get it over with if you can.” 

Perez even told an anecdote about how getting things done early helped him out.

“What made the process easier was my dad getting on my case about applying. It’s funny to me but it holds true. Sometimes we all get lazy and put it off to the side. But we all need reminders,” he said.

Atker added that even juniors can eliminate future stress by coming up with questions and ideas. 

“Students can gain a lot from talking to guidance counselors and attending college fairs. Juniors can come and ask questions too, and then they can choose schools to apply to. It is never too early,” she said.

A particularly stressful piece of the college application for seniors is the dreaded college essay. The time eating 600 word monster is often what eats time and ravages chaos within a student’s application.

Watkins, however, stressed the importance of making the essay simple.

“With your essay, be authentic, and don’t just say what you think we want to hear,” she said. “Sometimes students try a little too hard to put what they think will make us happy, but in reality, we just want to get to know you and hear about what you want to tell us. Even if the essay is guided, add your own spice.”

Finally, counselors and alumni advised students on how to make their final decision when the day comes.

Watkins wanted to tell students that stepping on campus is a great way to find a school that feels like home. 

“If you’re comfortable, visit campus while school is in session. You can get a feel for what day to day college life is like,” she said.

Moreno Aguliar stressed the importance of students choosing schools that are best for them, not anyone else.

“Make a pro con list for every school. The one with the most valuable pros for you is definitely a good choice. Go to the school that you feel is best for you and feels like home. Don’t go to a school because of its name or to impress others,” she said.

All advisors wished the best of luck to AT’s seniors.

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