Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying to College


Lee Marcel, Editor-in-Chief

As a first born child, college applications seemed incredibly daunting. I didn’t have siblings or older friends to tell me what to do. I was super stressed about applications due to all the counselors and supervisors telling me how hard it would be, and who was I to argue with them, I didn’t know any better.

The truth is, it’s way easier than everyone makes it out to be, and if you come up with a plan of action before you start, the only stress you should have is waiting for the acceptance letters. I’ve compiled a list with the other Editors-in-Chief of things to do – and things to not do – while tackling your college applications with the goal of helping lower classmen feel more confident in their application decisions.

1: The first and most important thing to do: create a CommonApp account (as early as spring of junior year). Using the CommonApp to do all of your applications makes it super easy and convenient. I would suggest only applying to colleges that use this service, which is most that you can think of (Yes, including Ivy Leagues).

2: Most of your colleges will want teacher recommendations, and my advice to you is GET THEM EARLY (ask them spring of junior year)!! Teachers will most likely not accept your request for recommendations if it’s 2 weeks until it’s due, as they still have other things to do. Get them early and send them extra information about yourself.

3: You didn’t hear this from me, but prestige doesn’t matter if you hate your life at college. Make sure when you’re applying to schools you understand the out-of-class life that students have. Do you like partying? Do you hate it? These are important questions to ask while selecting colleges to apply for.

4: UVA, JMU, VT, W&M. These colleges are talked about everywhere when you’re a senior at WAHS. But contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually have to apply there if you don’t want to. Apply out of state! Apply to some random 2 year college in the middle of nowhere! Virginia schools might not be the right fit for you, and that’s okay.

5: Unfortunately, getting rejected from a colleges is an inevitable fact of life, and getting wait-listed is also. My advice, don’t ride your entire college career on a school that wait-listed you, and don’t fret if you get rejected from your top school, it obviously wasn’t meant to be! Insider tip: actually look at factors that impact acceptance rate (i.e. a certain school may take 80% in state)

6: The dreaded SAT, the day that you’re anxious about for weeks only to be more frustrated that you wasted an entire Saturday filling in bubbles instead of hanging with friends. I’m here to tell you that if you practice, you only need to take it 1-2 times. Using Khan Academy and taking practice tests is often more helpful than hiring a tutor.

7: When I was asking the other editors about what to include in this guide, Darrah Sheehan, a rising first year at UVA, would like you to know that WAHS’ GPA scale is out of 4.0 (NOT 5.0). If you put the WAHS GPA at 5.0, it will make your grades look worse than they actually are. Make sure you remember this or you’ll have to email all your colleges and inform them of your mistake.

8: Last but not least, scholarships! While some applications automatically enter you in school-specific merit scholarships, researching on your own about scholarships is a super awesome way to get non-merit and merit based scholarships. Ms. Poole is an amazing resource about scholarships. AGAIN, start this at the end of junior year.