It’s started. You’re in your senior year and it’s time to make those “big” life decisions. People start asking:

“What are you going to do after you graduate?”
“Where are you going to go to school?”
“What are you going to major in?”

The pressure is on.

I get it. Senior year can be TOUGH. You have to make sure you keep your grades up to graduate, apply to colleges, and figure out how to pay for college. And then there are other important things like homecoming, prom, and making the most of every moment with these people who you’ve spent the last four years with and may have to do the next four years without. It’s scary!

So where do you start?

The college application process can paralyze you with so many choices. It’s hard to know how to narrow it down to just one.

Some people choose a school based on how close it is to home, or what kind of programs they offer, or how big or how small it is. Others choose based on the athletic programs offered. And almost everyone chooses a school based on finances in some capacity.

I was in your exact same shoes several years ago. I know how overwhelming your senior year can be, and we don’t want “applying to colleges” to be one of those things that pushes you over the edge. So I’ve created a space for you to come to have all of your questions answered. Today we are starting with the most important one:

How do I Apply for College?

Well, my friend, I have the answer for you in 5 easy steps!

Step 1: Think About Your Ideal College Experience
If you’ve grown up in a smaller classroom environment, then continuing your education at a smaller school with more individual attention in the classroom may help you thrive in your college education. If you know you want to be a marine biologist and that’s all you want to do with your life, then you can narrow down your college choices by looking at schools that offer marine biology (and maybe are close to the beach!) This brainstorming process is necessary because it helps you outline what you want in a school.

Step 2: Research & Request Information
Go online! A lot of schools offer mobile-friendly websites. This can be something you do on your bus commute to school. Read about their academic programs and campus life. Read their blog (if they have one!) You can even go further and check out their Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram if they have one – this especially helps see campus life at a more personal and informal level. If you like what you see, make sure to fill out a form to request more information. This helps the school know who is interested, and they can contact you via text, email, or a phone call to tell you more about the school and answer any questions you have!

Step 3: Visit the School
Once you have your list down to a few schools, it’s time for a road trip! Call the college(s) of your choice to set up a campus visit. Ask what is available for you to do as a student. Typically, a campus visit includes a meeting with an admissions counselor and a tour of the campus. Sometimes you can eat in the food court/cafeteria or sit in on a class to truly get a feel of campus life and the academic side of things. Visiting the school is probably the most important aspect of the application process because it helps you see whether or not the school is a right fit for you.

Step 4: Apply!
If you think this school might be the one for you, then submit an application! Insider Tip: Call your admissions counselor to ask if there is an application code waiver. If there is, they might be able to waive that application fee for you! Submitting an application is not committing to the school. If you are curious about how much financial aid you can receive, or you have an inkling that you might want to attend the school, it never hurts to apply! Schools are not likely to release a financial package to you unless you have completed the application process and been admitted.

Step 5: Ask Questions
Your admissions counselors are there to walk with you through the application process. No question is too dumb. We know this is a first time for you, and may be a first time for your parents as well!

The college application process can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! It’s like eating an elephant – you can only eat it one bite at a time. If you are proactive and take initiative, you will survive and thrive.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you think about applying to colleges. Let us know how we can help you during your college search process! We’d love for you to consider Milligan. Learn more about us on our admissions webpage!

Written by: Christina Mushayamunda, a Milligan alum and former admissions counselor