A Hindsight Guide to College Applications: Part 2

20 march 2012

This post describes some crucial factors of a college application: writing your essays, and financial aid. It is a continuation of this post.

Writing:

Now, this is the part that takes some time. The process for this part will be different for everybody, so it’s hard to generalize.

I first focused on the short answer question regarding my most important extracurricular. I talked about how Student Government made me a more responsible person who took initiative. I tried to make this as concise as possible.

Take time with your essays. Let yourself shine.

Then, I focused on the Common App essay. This part was difficult for me. It took me awhile to brainstorm good essay topics. I recall staring blankly at a computer screen for two hours. I even had to read other essays for inspiration.

One day in class, my friend said something was “seriously funny.” This paradox inspired me to write an essay about contradictions. I wrote a “poetic essay” about how I am a contradiction (If you want to see it, just ask). It fell under topic choice #6 which was a topic of my choice. I found that it was extremely important to have many people read the essay. I think I had about 10-15 people critique the essay. When I was done, I had an essay that I was truly proud of. I wrote another essay about an experience with my dad that influenced what I wanted to do with my life for some supplements. For colleges that did not use the Common App, I adjusted my essays to satisfy their prompts. This way I didn’t write any more essays than I needed to (Can you tell that I’m lazy?).

It’s important to start this process early (Sound familiar?). The more time you have, the better your essay will be. Your essays show the admissions office who you are as a person. I know this is cliche, but let your voice come through in your essay and really show who you are as a person. Don’t rush the essay writing process and make sure to have your teachers, counselors, family members, friends, acquaintances, friends of friends, and mailman read your essays.

Financial Aid:

If you’re applying for financial aid, make sure you get your forms in on time. I completely forgot about financial aid forms, and I ended up sending some forms a month late to colleges that I was applying early too.

Make sure your parents are a part of the process. It will reduce your stress immensely. Get these forms turned in on time. If you don’t, how can you expect to receive any aid? Filling out financial aid forms is a hassle.

You will need to fill out a CSS Profile on the CollegeBoard website. You will also need to fill out the FAFSA and you may need to send tax forms. If you have filed your taxes, it should be easy to retrieve, even if you did a free efile online. If not, it might take a little digging. Regardless, the payoff would be worth it if you receive aid.

Another tip: if the college is need-blind, always apply for aid. Some people think that even if the college says it’s need-blind (meaning admissions are not affected by whether the applicant applies for aid), it will still be biased to those who apply for aid. This is a myth. If a college says it’s need-blind, then it is need blind!

Financial aid was my least favorite part of the application process (everything else is tied for second). It took multiple days to get it done. My parents are immigrants from India, so they had trouble with understanding some of the questions. This process was painful as sometimes my parents would both be asking me poorly-worded questions at the same time. Can’t you just picture it? My dad would ask “How I am supposed to estimate the 2012 income?” while my mom would simultaneously ask “What is this FAFSA?”

Eventually, we got through the process together with the help of previous tax returns and my cousin who is an accountant. I think my Tylenol count reached double-digits during this process though.

And on that note, too be continued. The final post of this series will cover my own experience with acceptance and rejection.

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