Applying to college 101: coming May 31st

Paige Bajsarowicz, Editorial Board

In one of the most grueling experiences of high school, four years of hard work and preparation come to a crossroad: the college application process. Luckily, there are many things Liberty students can do, upperclassmen and underclassmen alike, that can help them prepare for the occasion. 

In fact, Liberty’s College and Career Center has planned an event for the specific purpose of teaching students the ropes–how they should start, where they should go, and what schools they should research.

On May 31st, 2023, Liberty will be hosting Oregon State Admissions Counselor Jarrod Larse and his presentation: College 101.

It’s really nice to have somebody who actually is on that side of things, telling you what you should be doing and how to prepare,” College and Career Specialist Jillian Moss said.

Larse will walk students through the first steps of the college application process.

“It’s all about putting together your college list. What colleges might I be interested in? What should I look for in colleges? And then thinking about the timeline: when do I need to do essays, the FAFSA, get recommendations, things like that,” College and Career Specialist Becky Wachtman said.

According to Larse, these are many questions students should ask as they start to narrow down their college search. Do they prefer public or private schools? Is the class size important? Where do they want to live? What fields of study interest them? What is affordable? What other factors are important? Religion? Athletics? 

To answer such questions, Wachtman and Moss recommend students visit various websites–Big Future, US News and World Report, and Zello–to discover trustworthy information about colleges and universities across the nation.

While it may seem overwhelming, narrowing the college list is a vital part of the application process. These questions push students to question what they want and how to make their college experience best for them.

Moss and Wachtman also note the importance of having a discussion with your family as this process commences.

“Starting with a real candid conversation with your family, and the people who are providing for you can help you narrow your list,” Wachtman said. “These questions aren’t hard, they’re very obvious questions, but if you actually take the time to answer them, that’s going to get you really homed in on the schools that would be right for you.”

Without doing the research and narrowing the college list, students are forced to work much harder.

“Kids aren’t doing enough thinking about what colleges are of interest to them upfront. And what that results in is they are applying to way too many schools,” Moss said. “It’s a lot of work to apply to a college. There are multiple steps and customized essays. Students aren’t being thoughtful enough about where they really want to go and so they’re over-applying, which is adding a lot of work to their plate.”

It is a lot of work; however, there are many valuable tips that both counselors and upperclassmen have for students about to start the process. 

Reaching Out: Students can email admission officers to introduce themselves and ask questions. Some officers keep track of who contacts them to record who has a genuine interest in their school.

Testing: Many students choose to take standardized testing to show their preparedness for college work. The SAT is one such test. For students who are preparing to take the SAT in the coming years, it is important to know that the test will be taken digitally. It is also worth noting that competitive schools will likely begin requiring the SAT once again.

Scholarships: Many students don’t know that there are tons of scholarships available to students of all grade levels and backgrounds. Merit scholarships are awarded to those with good extracurriculars, challenging courses, and standardized test scores, especially those who perform extremely well on the PSAT. There are also additional scholarships unique to each school, and it’s definitely worth students doing the research to see what they apply to.

Essays: Every year, students struggle to choose what topics they should or should not write about. 

“Kids are constantly, in these essays, trying to tell the reader what they think they want to hear. Like, what would make me look good? What would make me look more diverse? What would make me look like I’ve overcome more challenges?” Wachtman said. “And so, they write the essays based upon what they think the readers want to hear, instead of writing the essays just genuinely about who they are as people and showing their true personality.”

Time management: “A major challenge, which is pretty obvious, but real nonetheless, is timeline management.” Moss said. “This is a stressful process and it becomes infinitely more stressful if you procrastinate and wait too long to get started on these things.”

No matter what point in the application process, students should feel comforted by the many people and resources there to help students as they navigate this time in their lives.