Tales of a College Applicant: Tips and Tricks when Applying to College as a Senior


Image Credit: Charlevoix-Emmet ISD

Emily Unks, Features

When entering senior year of high school, one can feel completely blind. The entire college application process feels like someone is forcing you to solve a math problem with a formula you’ve never learned. Everyone makes it abundantly clear that college applications are open, but nobody knows what to do. And after you’ve finished the grueling process of writing different answers to short answer questions, spending hours trying to figure out a way to tell admissions everything that you are with a 650-word essay, and checking boxes of your entire family history, you have to sit and wait—sitting, waiting, and wondering if all those tireless application periods will pay off in the long run. In all honesty, there’s no way of gauging if it will pay off, but it is quite an accomplishment to have applied to college in the first place! 

Helpful Tips When Applying

As a senior that can almost see the finish line of high school, I am qualified to tell you some tips I wish I would have known when entering the senior college process:

  1. Stop stressing about your college essay! Well, the only reason you should be stressed is if you don’t start your brainstorming process before you start applying. Trying to come up with an essay that encapsulates your entire being at the same time as trying to answer the prompts that all the colleges give you is not an ideal situation. If you start to brainstorm in advance, the process will go a lot more smoothly. Everybody wants to write a groundbreaking essay that changes the entire trajectory of admissions’ lives and everybody thinks they had to have overcome some sort of obstacle or trauma, but it’s completely fine to have lived a “boring life”. I promise you your idea will come to you. A lot of people hire “essay tutors” but, it begs the question, is it really you or the tutor writing? I think the best work is done when one is their most authentic self!
  2. Try to find scholarships to apply to, anything helps. The biggest mistake I have made in my college process is ignoring free money. All you need to do is apply. Your counselor will send you some that you can apply but you can also check the website of the colleges you have applied to, and check helpful websites such as https://www.niche.com/. No amount of money is too little!
  3. Choose the colleges you want to apply to realistically. Before I started applying for college, I used to think to myself “I could apply to colleges in Hawaii if I wanted!” I learned really quickly that that is completely impractical. The reality is, out-of-state college is expensive and if out-of-state isn’t in your price range, then I wouldn’t apply to a bunch of colleges you know you aren’t going to go to. I would highly suggest touring the colleges you have in mind during springtime when football season is over (if your school has football) to get the feel for what college is like without the comradery. If you fall in love with an out-of-state college, there are things you can do like apply for scholarships, get your SAT/ACT scores up, apply for FAFSA, and take out student loans.
  4. Apply early action to every single college that offers it. This guarantees you get a response before the regular decision pool. It also gives you time to reassess your options if you get deferred, rejected, or waitlisted.

What to Know When Getting Responses from Schools

There are 4 different keywords to know when it comes to opening your college responses. Accepted, Deferred, Waitlisted, and Rejected. Obviously, the best-case scenario is accepted. Acceptance gives you admission to the college. The next best thing is a deferral. Although some will take a deferral as an insult, it is recommended that one is grateful for a second chance at admission. One usually gets deferred if applying early action. All deferral means is that your application decision has been pushed to the regular decision pool, which is neither bad nor good, your application is just in limbo. What you can do during this time is email admissions and “plead your case” and send any information you have that might increase your chances of getting admission into the school. Waitlisted means that you are put on a waiting list to be admitted and it is based off of the amount of people that got admitted to the school and if they enroll or not. One usually does not know if they gained admission until after required enrollment in May. And worst case scenario is rejection. We all get rejected at some point or another, so don’t sweat it if you don’t get in, it just means you were destined to go somewhere else.


Applying to colleges can get the best of us sometimes, but just know that you will get through it. I have been accepted, deferred, waitlisted, and rejected, and I am living proof that no matter what, you’ll make it through. Good luck future seniors and college applicants!