Tips for a Stress-Free College Admissions Journey

Nowadays, nothing is more daunting to high school students than the college admissions process. Students spend their entire high school careers shaping their résumés and trying to achieve the highest GPA possible, all in an effort to gain admittance into their dream school.

Especially for seniors, who are currently at the climax of the college admissions process, it can be overwhelming to meet all deadlines and face the dreaded “senioritis.” Within all the madness that comes with filling out applications and writing and rewriting essays, however, the UA college counselors are there to guide students at each step of the way.

Most seniors can agree that the most stressful part of applying to college is writing the personal essays. “The challenge is that you need to depict specific reasons as to why they should choose you over their other applicants,” says Gracie Moll ’19.

“The essay is the place on a college application where students can discuss their interests, experiences, or characteristics in a personal way that may not be evident through your GPA, classes, test scores, or even résumé,” says Mrs. Byrum from the College Counseling Department. “Your essay should show the reviewer something about you that they don’t already know with a topic that is focused, concise, and personal.”

The feared “writer’s block” is unfortunately part of the reality of writing college essays. Nonetheless, there are several ways students can tackle this issue and write good content. Students can try talking to their parents and teachers who know them well; this will help them brainstorm and get ideas flowing. In addition, looking at examples of previously-written essays can provide inspiration and help students see effective ways to execute an idea.

Another aspect of the college admissions process that can be petrifying is none other than financial aid. At most colleges, the application for merit-based aid is the application for admission, but this is not the case with need-based financial aid.

If a student is pursuing need-based financial aid, colleges require that they complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and/ or the CSS profile. Both of these applications open at the beginning of October. When applying for any kind of financial aid, Mrs. Byrum suggests that students and families keep track of their deadlines and do not miss them. A good way to ensure students meet all deadlines is to have a detailed Excel spreadsheet that includes application deadlines, financial aid deadlines, enrollment deadlines, etc.

Even though Ursuline students are always busy with extra-curricular activities, it is important that they ask questions and reach out to admissions representatives. Though there are many colleges who do not factor demonstrated interest into their admissions decisions, “Reaching out to a college and learning more about the opportunities available at that school is a great way to know if the campus is a match for you,” advises Mrs. Byrum.

There are many ways in which students can demonstrate interest in a specific college. “A few ways include talking with a representative at a college fair, meeting with admissions reps when they come to Ursuline (a complete list of dates and times is on Naviance), visiting a campus when possible, attending a local information session in DFW, and reaching out to Ursuline’s admission rep directly through email,” says Mrs. Byrum.

As daunting as the college admissions process can seem, it is important to remember that everything happens for a reason. Fill out all applications on time, diligently, and genuinely (remember, colleges want to get to know who you are!). After that, students should try to enjoy their senior year as much as possible instead of feeling stressed. In the end, you have only one senior year… enjoy it!

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