Last week, I was sitting with a 12th-grade client who attends a local public school, and we discussed her mixed emotions about applying Early Decision. She is a strong student on many levels and is approaching her college search process by asking all the right questions, though, in our meeting, I’m not sure she would have given herself this credit. I was impressed that this student was going the extra mile in her college application process: she obtained campus crime reports, spoke to multiple current students about their experiences, attended classes at the colleges on her list, and more. That said, when our conversation started, she began by saying, “I know this may not be a good reason to have concerns about a college, but…” She continued by explaining that she felt anxious about applying to a college Early Decision because of recent on-campus crime statistics. The student felt that she needed to step back from this particular school that had captured her focus and take additional time to further research the other schools on her college list. Agreeing to a binding Early Decision commitment with a school that you have reservations about is not a path to take. I encouraged the student to acknowledge her feelings, pay attention to them, and not apologize for feeling the way that she does.

As seniors confirm college lists this fall, they should be honest with themselves about what they need to succeed in college and what feels right when visiting campuses. Don’t ignore gut feelings, good or bad. When exploring colleges, if something surfaces that is concerning, ask questions until you get the answers you need. If you find a college that is particularly exciting and initially feels like a good fit, research it further by asking questions about the topics that matter to you and your family, whatever they are: academic programs, study abroad options, religious life, campus safety, learning support services, financial aid, etc.

Students, your college search and application process begins and ends with YOU! Make your needs and feelings priorities as you confirm application decisions. Don’t apologize at any time for the way that you feel. Embrace your instincts and let them have the influence that is deserved.

Priorities in the College Application Process

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