Making the College Admission Process about You

High School me in Anything Goes
High School me in Anything Goes

Greetings from sunny Southern California! My name is Jessica Frey (informally known as J Frey) and I am a Senior Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission at USC. I grew up in Hollister, a tiny farm town in Northern California that has no affiliation whatsoever with the clothing store. I attended a large public high school with over 3,000 students and somehow found my way to USC to study theatre. My hope is that through sharing my own experiences, I can give you some advice and help you feel at ease when you approach the college admission process.

Many of you readers will be applying to college before you know it, and I want to make sure you know this is going to be all about you. It might feel a little weird and selfish for those of you who are always putting other’s needs before your own. But in order for you to make an informed college list and end up at a place where you belong and feel happy, you do need to make the college search process all about yourself.

I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school I made a lot of my decisions based on what other people were doing and thinking. It’s cool to wear red pants now? Ok, maybe I will go get that pair I was eyeing at the mall last weekend. All the other kids in my class are applying to College XYZ? Maybe I should too. My counselor says I’d be good at engineering since I like my calculus class? I wonder if I should apply to engineering, even though I have NO IDEA what being an engineer is all about. These were all real thoughts I had as well as many others during that anxious and stressful fall semester of senior year.

While it is very easy (and sometimes a good thing) for outside influences to shape your decisions, the college process should be one where you let your own thoughts and ideas navigate your choices. Here are three basic principles I think every high school student should keep in mind while they decide where they are going to apply to college:

Focus on facts rather than opinions. Many people form opinions about different colleges and universities, but you should really focus on your own thoughts of the schools as well as the information you find as you research the colleges that interest you. It’s important that you are interested in a college because they offer something that you want in your undergraduate experience- not just because other people you know are fans of the school, or because of its well-known reputation.

Reflect on what you want in a college experience, and apply to schools accordingly. This is the time for you to think about what a college campus should have in order for you to be a happy and thriving student. Do you want to go to school in a large city or a rural college town? Do you want to study abroad in a particular country? What sort of activities do you want to pursue outside of the classroom? Do you want to have the opportunity to work closely with your professors? If you find a school you’ve never heard of but it has everything you’re looking for, add it to the list! It doesn’t matter if nobody from your school or family ever knew about the college prior to your discovery. It could be a place where you will have an enjoyable college experience.

Enjoy the search process! The process of creating your college list can be a daunting task, but it can also be an enjoyable experience. This is your chance to learn as much as you can about the many amazing colleges and universities across the country. This is your time to explore the wide array of options and look closely at the colleges you are considering.

I don’t write this blog to tell you that you shouldn’t listen to your parents, counselors, or peers. You may have wonderful resources at your disposal that provide great advice and insight. Counselors know about a variety of colleges and may be able to tell you more about the ones that meet your criteria. Your parents will be able to help determine which schools will be within reach financially. You just have to make sure their advice also aligns with what you want in a college experience.

That being said, I did buy and totally rocked the red pants. I’ll admit that I applied to a college I had no intention of attending just to see if I could get in. I did get into the school, but at the end of the day that didn’t matter. It didn’t make me feel better about myself and it was quite honestly a waste of time and money. But I did follow my heart and became a theatre major rather than an engineer, and I’m so happy I did. More on that later.

Until next time,
J Frey