The college hunt

The college hunt

The steps to finding the perfect college can overwhelm students who have never been through the process before. Most people do not know where to startand neither do their parents. Sophomore and junior years of high school are normally when students seriously begin working on getting accepted into their dream schools. 

I was extremely overwhelmed at the beginning of senior year because I had no idea what kind of college I wanted to apply for, but I ended up touring many colleges, and the University of Arkansas was the perfect fit for me,” Sarah Mahoney, senior, said.  

First, it is best to tour all the colleges that are being considered.  Many students take one break in the school year to travel to all different colleges and experience the campus and culture of the school. Before touring, it is important to consider which schools are realistic considering student’s budget, location preference, size, and the chances of being accepted. It is important to not only look at the overall tuition but to also look into the room and board cost, as well. 

I think it is important to tour a college before applying so that you can get a feel of the campus and make sure it is a good fit for you,” Emma Lambert, senior, said.  

Another important aspect of college is the extracurriculars offered. Depending on the college, some schools can provide internships, Greek life, clubs, study abroad trips, community service, scholarships, among other choices. These opportunities could help students decide on a career path, give resume experience, or change how the overall experience is at college. 

When it came to choosing my college, I had to make sure that I not only loved my school but also the town. With GCSU being in-state, it is a great option money-wise, while having all the wants such as sororities, a cute downtown, and a great nursing school for my future career,” Caroline Kapcsos, senior, said.  

A major decision when looking at colleges is the size of the school. Some students enjoy a small school for more privacy, focus, or for the soul purpose of earning a degree faster. Others enjoy all the fun experiences that come along with a large university, such as making memories, creating new connections, and receiving a degree.  

I decided to attend a smaller college in the fall so that I could focus on my lacrosse offer and not be so distracted by the large campus and events going on,” Hunter Coleman, senior, said.  

Once the touring process is over, it is easy to eliminate a school from the list based on the location of the school and the city it lies in. Many people consider this step of the process the most important since distance from home can be a factor, and students’ opinions on a specific city can change after visiting. 

Location of the college had a big impact on my decision because I wanted to stay in Georgia so that I could apply my scholarships,” Noah Bauer, senior, said.  

Lastly, another deal breaker can be whether the college offers specific majors. Most college-bound students tend to be set on one specific major, so if it is not a common one, it can be more difficult to find a college that fits all the needs but still holds the major.  

I have a specific major, so it’s been hard for me to find a college to fit my needs, but I am still looking,” Patrick Hicks, senior, said. 

These are only a few of the first steps that are followed when looking into colleges. It is crucial to spend four years at a school that meets the student’s predetermined standard. The next piece offers advice on the step-to-step process for the college hunt. 

Recommendations require dedication

The next steps in the college process are much more timeconsuming and difficultAfter deciding on college of preference, it is important to get started on the necessary documents in order to apply. 

Throughout high school, keep a running list of your academic achievements, extra-curricular involvements, awards, recognitions, volunteer experiences and any other items you might put on a resume or college application. Having this information in one place will make the application and letter of recommendation process much easier,” Taran Smith, school counselor, said.  

The next task is completing the counselor packet provided by your school counselor. Students fill out information providing academic statisticshobbies, and schools you are applying to. A series of questions must be answered, and teacher and parent recommendations are required. 

“Students should select teachers that truly know them and can speak to their talents and intellect. I would also identify areas of weakness in my application and ask teachers or the counselor to speak to this and provide more information. Provide them with information or details that can provide examples of success, as well,” Smith said.  

Next come the recommendation letters. Many colleges require a series of recommendation letters in order to get input from the teachers who have taught the student. To do so, email the required number of teachers an attachment of the counselor packet as well as the reasowhy they have been chosen. Then, send a request from the Common Application website for a direct link for teachers to use for their submission. If the college of preference is not on Common Application, then have the teacher send the recommendation letters to the counselors for them to submit to the college.   

Try and find teachers that you have a relationship with despite grades. Having a teacher that knows you rather than numbers, will give the letter more meaning. Ask them in advance to write itso they have time to write it,” Lauren Saale, senior, said.  

When applying to college, some require an essay with a specified subject and number of characters. In order to make it the best possible, write the rough draft of the essay, then have teachers, tutors, or college advisors edit it or give inspiration to make sure it is the best it can be. Linked is a step-to-step process on how to write a college essay. 

It took me a while to complete my essay, but I reached out to past literature teachers and they helped me make it the best it could be,” Sam Lefever, senior, said.  

These steps in the college process are crucial and best to be completed early on. The workload for applications can build up quickly, especially if students are planning on applying to many different colleges. Do not give up and push through the work in order to receive the best opportunities. 

Saving on college costs

After applying to college, the next crucial step is completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and scholarship applications 

The amount of time spent on finding and filling out scholarship applications is proportional to the money that can potentially be received,” Michele Dowd, counselor, said.  

Colleges and universities use the FAFSA form to determine eligibility for federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid, including grants, educational loans, and work-study programs. To complete FAFSA, go to https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out 

I think the FAFSA is a good opportunity to get financial aid, and it doesnt take too much effort to fill it out. I had so many problems with logging in, though, so that made it mordifficult, Isabella Bryant, senior, said.  

Next up is the scholarship application process. In order to possibly be rewarded with money and opportunities from the desired college, it is important to check email for any updated links sent to further the college process. Eventually, more information from the preferred college will be sent, and an account will have to be set up. 

Completing the scholarship application is very important because you could be awarded great scholarships to benefit you in the future and get money off of your tuition. Completing this step helped my family and me out a lot,” Becca Clark, senior, said.  

After signing inthere will be a list of scholarships that are available at the universityThe steps online are usually easy to follow, but inputting all the information must be completed. Once the process is complete, an email will be sent offering the scholarship(s) that best fits the student’s standards and achievements 

I was ecstatic when I saw that I had been awarded the Charter Scholarship from UGA. It was a great accomplishment, and my family was very proud,” Patrick Ridgeway, senior, said. 

After completing the tedious steps of the college application process, it is typical for students to know where they will be attending the upcoming year. The next steps are choosing roommatesa living lifestyle, and enrolling/preparing for the next chapter! 

Up next: The Real World

Once the necessary documents and requirements to be enrolled into college are complete, the exciting part is next. Once students have enrolled into the specific college or university, it is time to choose roommates, complete enrollment through the school’s website, choose a dorm of preference, and start shopping for college items. 

The college process is so stressful. Once you get in, and then officially decide, that’s when you have the freedom to start to get excited for your new life. It feels so real now,” Maggie Bradley, senior, said. 

Once students have chosen which college to attend, the university tends to send out emails and information that must be filled out before moving in. It allows them to have access to anything they need to know about rising students, including housing situations, roommates, classes, personal information, and everything else that comes with finalizing their college choice. 

It is very important to fill out the information that is required from the college you’re attending, so that they can complete all the necessary steps to your enrollment. So, make sure to check your college email and stay up to date,” Cole Scott, senior, said. 

If finding a college roommate is difficult, there tends to be a page on Facebook or Instagram that has profiles of many different incoming students. On this page, it will normally include the student’s name, place they are from, what their hobbies are, their major, what they are planning on joining at the university, and any other information they want to provide. It is a simple way to narrow down what person best suits each student’s unique style and fit. 

“I had so much fun searching for a roommate that best fit my personality. I looked for months, but had a gut feeling with a specific one and I couldn’t be more excited to move in and get closer with her,” Bailey Cantrell, senior, said.  

After roommates are chosen, it should be applied into the housing portal of the university. Then, around the end of the second semester an email with all the available rooms will be sent out to the students to choose. Greater benefits will be presented to the students that enter their room preference in first. 

I keep constantly checking my college portal to see if a link for dorm room choices have been sent out yet because I really want a specific dorm. It’s a nerve-racking, yet exciting experience,” Julian Vaccaro, senior, said. 

Lastly, to prepare for college move-in, a frequent task students do is shop for college dorm items and spirit wear. Any home décor store, such as Marshalls, Wayfair, Kirklands, and HomeGoods will have items that fit the needs of a dorm. To get a good amount of spirit wear for the college attended, students can visit College Station Sports Store, Universities Forever, College Collectibles, and Champs.    

Shopping is one of my favorite things to do. My mom and I have been having so much fun shopping around and searching on Pinterest for inspiration to have a homey, cute, and functional dorm for next year,” Maddy Sansone, senior, said. 

There are many steps to enrolling in college, and no one knows exactly how it works, but there are many counselors, teachers, and past Etowah students that can help guide. Go for the school that best fits and makes you happiest.