Advice on Applying to College for Juniors, from a Senior

By Necati Unsal, Section Editor

Applying to college can be stressful, especially given the extenuating circumstances of Covid, the massive workload of junior year, and what seems like the constantly changing applications process. Having said that, here are some tips that would have helped me at the spot you all are at now, as a junior, mostly through the year. 

To preface this all, I will avoid traditional advice like “start the process early” or “study for a higher SAT/ACT score,” since I’m assuming you all have heard this or will hear this later this year. 


  1. Focus on fit

When I mean “fit,” I’m referring to how well you think a school would fit your needs and how you’d fit into their specific school community. The benefit here is two-fold. On the one hand, you’ll benefit from a school that fits your needs and suits you best, but you’ll also benefit from a more straightforward application process. When you are ultimately hit with the age-old “Why Us?” essay topic, it helps tremendously to know why you genuinely want to go to the school, which often resides less in academic ranking in a subject of your choice or some specific program, and more in things like general school vibes and what the student body is like. Addressing these lesser-known aspects of a school will help you stick out in an age where everyone can look up different programs and classes on a school’s websites and help you decide where you want to spend your next four years. 


  1. Be a little strategic. 

Many people, myself included, often oscillate from being too focused on being strategic to not focusing on it at all. What I mean by being strategic is applying to a school less so because you like it, and more because whether you think you can get in, or when to use things like Early Action or Early Decision on specific schools that give preference to those applicants. This isn’t necessarily bad. I mean, getting into your second or third choice school during the Early Decision round and not being able to go to your first-choice school is much better than not getting into your first, second, or third choice. Despite this, you also want to keep that aforementioned authenticity in mind. Do you like that second or third-choice school, and can you articulate why? If not, it may be your best bet to either reevaluate the list of schools you’re applying to or apply to your first choice early decision since that would maximize your chances (depending on the school, mine included, they may not factor/prioritize early applicants) and allow you to articulate why you want to go to that school authentically. With this all being said, it’s often best to practice a combination of both of these extremes and see what’s best for your situation (ultimately, only you know where you’re applying and what you want out of the process). 


  1. Talk it Through 


This is a touchy subject. Sometimes, conversations about college are avoided, since they typically revolve around, school A is better than school B, or constant anxiety-ridden discussions, which I unfortunately also found myself often in the midst of, that serve only to make you and the people around you (friends and family) even more nervous and confused about applying to colleges. That being said, there is something to be said for the occasional – and occasional is key! – conversation about college, just to vent a bit and perhaps learn something new that may help out. This minimizes some of the anxiety of constant college talk while giving you less rather than more confusion than you had previously. This is probably the most important point I’ll make throughout this: please, talk to your college counselors. Talking to your college counselors, for one, is far more certain to help you out than asking your friend for college advice, since your counselor has far more experience. Additionally, the more you tell your counselor, both as far as questions and general facts and preferences about yourself go, the more they’ll be able to help you out and give personalized recommendations. 


I hope some of that helps. But, again, all of this information is from my singular experience and can probably vary based on your situation, so take all of this at face value and feel free to ask others, teachers, friends, family, and most importantly, your college counselor for their recommendations.