What I Wish I Knew Before Applying to College



Flagship Colleges in the U.S.

Madeline Singer, Editor-In-Chief

Upcoming Seniors

Damascus High School

25921 Ridge Rd, Damascus, MD 20872


Dear Class of 2023,

Congratulations! You are well on your way to applying to college!

Let’s face it – applying to college can be scary. Toward the end of my junior year, I felt like I was thrown into a world that I knew nothing about. My two older brothers had already been through the process, but for me, it was brand new. College applications are long, complicated, and time intensive. Fortunately, I was able to quickly learn about the process as I completed it. And now, I am lucky enough to share everything I learned and wish I knew before this exciting journey. 

First, start planning early on. I know. You’ve been told a million times that you should start looking at colleges and planning early on in high school. It seems clichè. Plus, the idea of having to figure out your future when it seems like you just started high school yesterday can be terrifying.

But, the truth is: The college search process takes the same amount of work whether you start it your freshman year or your senior year. The only difference is how much time you have to do all of that work. If you think logically about it, it’s obvious that starting early is the better choice.

Secondly, keep deadlines in mind. This might seem like a no brainer and to a certain extent it is. However, when you are writing multiple essays it can be easy to forget to send a SAT score or your official transcript. According to the CollegeBoard’s website, it can take up to three weeks from the time you submit a score request for your SAT results to arrive at your school of choice. Don’t cut it close! If you have a finalized test score, send all the materials to the school at the beginning of your senior year (or as soon as possible) so you aren’t paranoid as the application due date approaches.

Third, remember to be open. When I was deciding where to go to college, I had convinced myself that I wanted to go to a big university. Like many kids, I grew up watching TV and movies about “college life” that showed a huge Greek community and lectures full of hundreds of students. It seemed like the only “real” college experience. But, after having spent time visiting different college campuses, I came to realize that there were benefits of smaller colleges as well. Aside from the obvious, smaller class sizes, colleges with smaller populations always felt more like a community. It was almost like a little neighborhood where everyone knew each other; people seemed to make friends quickly as they had smaller classes with more of the same people.

This too, has its downsides as small colleges can be “cliquey” or feel like another four years of high school. The point is that I pretty much entirely ruled out small colleges without even giving them a chance. Keep an open mind.

Lastly, keep everything in perspective. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and remember the college you go to does not necessarily define your life path. 

Best of luck!

Madeline Singer, Class of 2022