The countdown to graduating high school and starting college can be both exciting and excruciating. Trying to meet the college application deadline is a roller-coaster time period crammed with feelings of freedom, fear and FOMO at the same time. Luckily, this experience is something that generations of VOXers have published about extensively since just about all of them have gone through it. So, if you or someone you know is currently pulling out their hair while filling out college applications, looking for scholarship money and getting that GPA up to par, here is some valuable information from teens who have gone down that road before.
Current Sarah Lawrence College sophomore Alimah Dawkins dropped plenty of jewels in her 2016 piece, “Tips For A Smooth College Application Process.” Among them was her advice about writing the college essay.
“It helps to realize that applying to college is less of a battle to the death between you and other applicants and more of a showcase where you are the star and the admissions team is the audience,” Alimah wrote. “Colleges get applications from thousands of other intelligent students. In order to separate yourself from the pack, speak to an experience that is unique to you. Instead of claiming to be the best or the brightest, use what you know for sure.”
She also revealed how writing a college essay about crying during the series finale of “Glee” is what ultimately led to her getting accepted.
Now, once you get the “yes you’re in” you were looking for, it becomes time to find out how to pay for it.
Current DePauw University sophomore Kaleb Anderson’s piece “Securing the Check: How to Successfully Pay for College” had some humble brags about how he didn’t wait until the last minute to find money for college, but he still gave teens plenty of game on how to secure the bag:
- Talk to your parents: I am adamant about being prepared by talking to my parents about what the process is and the documents needed for it. I suggest describing the college’s process thoroughly to your parents (or guardian) and keeping them updated on deadlines and important documents needed for the application process.
- Use the college’s website: Understanding the process is easy if you go to a university’s financial aid website to find out what they require in order to apply.
- Use your network: Being aware of and utilizing VOX’s resources, adult staff and alumni/mentor network was also a tip I gave to the teens. All of the organization’s resources are accessible and its resources better prepared me for the college application process.
2016 VOX Homecoming Royalty Mikael Trench left behind some sage advice in his piece “Money Mantras: A Breakdown of Common Financial Aid Terms.” In it he broke down the difference between college loans, grants and scholarships. He also explains what terms like “full ride”and “interest” meant.
“Entering into the world of financial aid can be a challenge, and one can easily be overwhelmed by the plethora of terms out there that are commonly used,” he wrote.
Even though essays and money are a major part of getting into college, they aren’t the only things to consider. Once you are there, you will have to learn to adjust, especially if you don’t have anyone in your family to ask for advice. In her 2016 piece “Resources for First Generation College Students” VOX alum Arlena McClenton laid out more financial advice as well as some social resources for new students.
“Sometimes when you’re embarking on a journey by yourself, it helps to know that the road has been travelled before,” she said. “Whether you’re in high school or college, reach out to the other first-generation students at your school. Lean on each other during hard times and celebrate your joys together. Your peers will help you feel at home and realize that you’re never alone.”
The deadline for many college early action applications is Oct. 15, with others being Nov. 1. Check the website of any college you’re interested in for details on their deadlines. We hope that this bit of information has calmed and encouraged you.
This piece was curated by VOX’s publishing manager.