To say that I was stubborn when I was applying for colleges is an understatement. I was persistent that I was only visiting and applying to two universities knowing that I was going to get into at least one of them. I had my had my heart set on attending a University of Missouri school, whether it was Columbia or Kansas City. I had made lists of organizations I wanted to get involved in at either of the two schools and had even researched potential dorms to live in at both schools but didn’t bother to look at any of these things for other schools. Did I say I was stubborn?

While I do attend the University of Missouri-Columbia and still love the branch campus in Kansas City, I wish that I had been more open minded to other universities instead of just touring them so that my parents would stop pestering me to branch out a little. Today I’m hoping to share with you what to keep in mind when you are choosing a college and making the very scary decision of where you would like to complete your under-graduate (and even maybe your masters!) degree.

Seniors guide to choosing a college

Location.

  • Distance from home.

As a senior in high school I was persistent that I wanted to be far enough away from home that it would take about a day or so to get home. While thankfully I came to my senses that it wasn’t a good idea, I knew that the closest I wanted to be to home was an hour and that I didn’t want to be out of the state of Missouri. The furthest away I looked was about seven hours and I found a happy medium in Columbia which is about three hours from my house. It’s far enough away from home that I feel independent, but close enough to home that if something where to come up I could be home.

  • Size of the city where your university is located.

One of the reasons I scratched several potential schools off of my list was because the towns were so small. I grew up in a town with around 80,000 people and that doesn’t have the broadest range of stores, restaurants, and places to hang out. I knew I wanted to find a nicer city with lots of people, stuff always going on, and more stores. I love Columbia for the beautiful down town within walking distance from campus, the gorgeous nature trails, and wide range of restaurants and stores whether locally owned or chains.

  • Climate of where you are moving to.

My university is known for its journalism school and people from around the country come just to be a part of it. It has always been interested me to watch people who have never truly seen snow until they make it to mid-Missouri for college. They seem to either love it or hate it once they’ve experienced it, but will also sometimes admit that thinking about the climate of where they were moving to had never crossed their minds. If you are looking into a school, especially if they are out of state, do research on what the climate can change to during the year. This way, you won’t be trying to order a winter coat after the first snow of the year.

Cost.

College is horribly expensive, but that shouldn’t prevent you from pursuing your dream schools. Apply for scholarships both through the universities you are applying to and outside sources, look into grants, and see about any students loans that you could take out. While I realize that student loans are frowned upon, if you have to take them out try your hardest to stick to the ones that are offered to you by your university. For example, if you are offered $7,000 as a loan, you don’t have to take the full amount if you don’t need all of it. Also, there isn’t as much interest on them compared to if you took them out from a source outside of your university (typically).

Campus size.

Campus size was huge to me and I never realized how much of an influence it could have on your college experience until I talked to a friend of mine that goes to a much smaller university. She made the comment that the most people she had ever had in a lecture was 100, that every professor knows her by name, she knows everyone in her class, and the walk to class is five minutes max. It’s a huge difference from my school where I’ve had several 500 person lecture classes, have to make the effort to meet my professors so that they know my name, I barely know the people within my major, and it can take me up to fifteen minutes to walk to class. When you are looking at colleges, the size of the campus plays a major role. While yes, the 500 person lecture classes scared me at first, I can’t imagine going to a smaller school that doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of my school and my friend can’t imagine going to a school that even offers lectures for more than 100 people.

Student body.

There are several things that I wish I had been a little more aware of when I was touring colleges. One of those things was the student body as a whole. My campus offers a very wide range of on-campus housing options, has a ton of school spirit, and the students are all very involved. Essentially, it’s almost as if I am always immersed in the school environment. While I love that aspect, for many that idea makes them cringe. Here are some things to look at within the student body of potential universities.

  • Commuter verses on-campus housing.

If you choose a university that offers on-campus housing, it basically immerses you in the school environment at all times. The dining halls are just around the corner, you can wake up twenty minutes before class and still be on time, and there are always people on campus and something happening. Commuter colleges don’t have any dorms (if they do it’s typically 1-3 at most) but typically has several apartment complexes near-by, students only typically come onto campus for class, work, and tutoring and go on their way, and typically there are less students on campus at any given time.

  • School spirit.

I didn’t understand exactly how much spirit my university had until an older sister of one of the girls in my dorm said that she couldn’t get over how much black and gold you saw around campus. She said that at her school you typically spotted a t-shirt for the school here and there, but that many students wore shirts supporting other universities. I love that my school bleeds black and gold and that on any given day whether it’s a game day or not you spot a sea of school spirit. For many people seeing that much school spirit is a bit too much.

My university offers over 700 clubs for you to join not including our Greek life and most students are involved in a handle of them. I personally love the hustle and bustle of students and just how involved we are within our university. On the other hand some students want to be able to take a step back and not be so involved within their university.

Major offerings.

A huge thing to consider when choosing a university is the major offerings. If you already have an idea in your head of what you want to major in, check to see if the universities you are looking at offer those particular majors and if they offer any majors you might consider incase later on you decide that the major you chose just isn’t for you. For me personally, I was set on broadcast journalism, communications, public relations, or marketing. While I ended up going with marketing, both schools that I was seriously looking at offered the majors that I was looking into.

Campus housing.

A big thing to consider when you are looking at colleges is whether you want to live at home, on-campus, or off campus. When looking at on-campus housing take into consideration the cost of living there, whether you want community or suite style, how many roommates you are okay with having, the location of the dorm on-campus, and if the dorm is open for you to stay there over breaks should you not be able to go home. When looking at off-campus housing consider the distance from campus, if the apartment offers shuttles to and from campus, if the apartment complex is catered towards college students or is a regular complex, and how much the monthly rent is.

Greek life.

One of the main reasons that I chose my university was because of the size of Greek life. While after a year of being an active member of a sorority I decided it simply wasn’t for me and decided to drop, I have nothing against sororities and am still happy that Greek life played such an important role in where I chose to go to school. If you are interested in joining Greek life, look into how many chapters your school has, how much involvement the chapters have on campus, and the potential price. If you choose a school with a smaller Greek life, things typically aren’t as extreme as compared to a school that has Greek life like Mizzou where pomping is how you spend the majority of your fall semester to prepare for homecoming.

If you are in high school, what are you looking for in a college? Do you think any of these tips will help you? If you are already in college or have graduated from college, are there any points that you would add to this list? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below!

College applications are a bit overwhelming to say the least. Between sending in your ACT/SAT score, working to maintain your grades, perfecting the essays for the applications, keeping up with the deadlines, and the overall stress of whether or not you will get into the school you want is a lot. And while maybe it was just in my head senior year, it can be difficult to stay on top of it all. Your potential of getting into the school of your dreams shouldn’t be determined by the fact that you missed the final date to apply because you had confused it with the date your senior scrapbook page was due. In today’s post I’m hoping to give you tips on how to stay on top of your applications in the overwhelm that is senior year and include some insider tips that I learned after being accepted.

seniorsguidetocollegeapplicationsWrite all dates down for your applications in a planner.

When you begin the college application process, all kinds of dates are thrown at you. Once you get these dates, make it a habit to write down the dates in a place that you will see them. Typically you should write down what day the application opens, what day the applications close and then any dates that the college or university might give you such as when you can begin signing up for orientation, what dates you can sign up for classes, and any other information. One of my close friends applied to several universities and gave each university a different color in her planner so that she could easily differentiate between the schools.

Apply on the day applications open.

Unless the first day that applications open is early admission or early acceptance, apply the first day applications open. Benefits from applying early, depending on the university, can include being among the first freshmen to select your dorm room or even being one of the first freshmen to sign up for classes. And as a freshmen the upperclassmen have already had their pick of dorm rooms and classes, so take any benefit you can get.

Have a folder on your computer to save application essays.

This is one of the best tips a close friend of mine gave me before I began applying to colleges. She advised me to write all of my college applications in separate Word documents and save them based on what the question was that they answered. This way, I could easily find the essay I was looking for when I was filling out an application for another university and edit it as needed. While typically universities don’t ask the same questions on their applications, they typically ask very similar questions so you can easily edit a previous essay to fit the new question.

Don’t lie about or boost your GPA.

One of the number one mistakes people make when applying to college is lying about or boosting their GPA. If you have cumulative GPA of 3.647, then you cannot round it up to a 3.65, it must stay at a 3.647 or a 3.64. While yes, it does seem a little on the intense side, if your GPA does not match what is on your transcript that your high school sends to the universities you applied to you risk not getting accepted because it will be seen as a lie.

Apply even if you don’t make the automatic acceptance requirements.

What surprised me that most when I hear people talking about why they did or didn’t apply to a university is when they tell me that they didn’t apply to a school simply because they didn’t have the ACT/SAT score for automatic acceptance. The university that I currently attend had an automatic acceptance requirement one point above what I had scored on my SAT. One point. Whether you are off by one point or more, still apply! Even if you end up not getting accepted, you at least know you tried.

Apply to more than one school.

Personally, I had my heart set on one school. I had dreamed of being able to attend since I was a sophomore in high school and there was no convincing me to go elsewhere unless I ended up not being accepted. With the majority of students already waiting until the last minute to submit their applications, you are definitely risking it when you only send in one application. Even if you only apply to two schools, apply to your risk school/dream school and then apply to a school that you know you can get into so you have the ability to have a school to fall back on incase things don’t go as planned.

Have a back-up plan.

I touched on this a little in the topic above, but have a back-up plan. Sadly, things don’t always go as we planned and we have to find an alternative solution. So just in case anything happens, have a plan you can fall back on. I know it isn’t the most fun thing to think about, but it is definitely something that needs to be thought about.

Are you a senior applying to colleges? If so, what do you tips to you hope to utilize from this post? If you are already in college, what tips would you add to this list? I would love to know in the comments below.

The transition to college is difficult to say the least. From the massive work load, roommates, new found freedoms, homesickness, and meeting new friends to name a few, adjusting to your new environment is anything but easy. In fact, it’s confusing, stressful, and at times completely overwhelming. Once you get used to things, it gets much easier, it’s just getting through the transition period that presents a challenge. I thought it would be nice to share the things that I struggled most with in my transition to college and what I did personally to handle the situations.

seniorsguidetransitioningtocollege

The Workload

Compared to high school, the work load that college brings is slightly frightening. While you are more than capable of handling the workload, it’s about figuring out how to go about it.

  • Manage your time. I was the queen of managing my time in high school, so I thought that college would be the same. Boy, was I wrong. The first 2-3 weeks of school were stressful and had me fearful of what the rest of my college career would bring since it just seemed like so much to handle. Once you get into a routine and figure out how you want to manage your time, it gets so much easier.
  • Go to tutoring and office hours. Along with the freedom and independence that comes with college, also comes a feeling that it’s no longer okay to ask for help in classes you are struggling with. That’s so not the case. Your professors and tutors are there to help you and want you to succeed. They are well aware that the transition to the workload in college is difficult and will be there to give you tips not only on how to succeed with your homework assignments and tests in their class, but also give you pointers on managing your time. Which, if I might add, is always much appreciated.
  • Use a planner. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I preach that you need to use a planner. I honestly don’t know what I would do without my planner and I still scratch my head as to how these people do it without one. Whether you choose digital or paper, fill it in, write down important dates, and refer to it consistently. I promise it will soon be your best friend.

Homesickness

Homesickness is a battle that all freshman deal with. Being away from your family and loved ones that have been by your side for so many years is difficult, especially when you are going from seeing them on a regular basis to once every few months or so. And the truth is, everyone deals with homesickness differently. For me, the biggest triggers to put me in a homesick funk where when I logged onto Facebook and saw that my friends attending the same university had classes together or when I would drive down the road and see a car or truck that looked like my mom and dad’s.

  • It’s okay to be upset. I am the kind of person that absolutely hates showing emotion. In fact, I’m not even one to cry in front of people. When my parents visited over the weekend only three weeks after dropping me off, I had the hardest time saying goodbye and started to cry. The fact of the matter is, it’s okay to cry and be upset. It doesn’t mean you are weak, it means you are going through a transition. I promise, it gets better.
  • It doesn’t mean that you don’t like your school. Maybe it was just me, but I entered college with the misconception that if you ever struggled with homesickness, it meant you didn’t like your school. Not the case at all. In my case, it was difficult for me to miss my family and friends from home so much when I loved my new found freedom and university.
  • Personalize your room. I covered my bulletin board with pictures of my friends and family from home. Everything from my dance recitals to pictures at high school graduation. It was always a comfort for me to walk into my dorm room and see faces of the people I know and love.
  • Don’t wallow in your emotions. While yes, I did say early that it is okay to be upset, that doesn’t mean that you should allow yourself to be upset all the time. Go out for ice cream with your new friends on your floor, look into organizations to join, go to the gym, or write. Whatever it is that can take your mind off of being homesick, do it.

Finding Your “Niche”

One of the hardest things for many people in college is finding your niche again. Just because you were the super star of sports in high school doesn’t mean that title transitioned with you to college. And that realization is hard for many people as they make the transition to college.

  • Get involved in an organization related to your major. The best thing to do to meet people that share the same mind-set as you is to get involved in an organization related to your major. Being a marketing major, I have the opportunity to join a business fraternity or even groups for women in business.
  • Do your research beforehand. Before you make the big move to college, do some research on organizations that match your personal interests. Maybe you like to bake, want to find a church, enjoy PiYo and TurboKick, and are interested in the steps it takes to start your own business. If that’s you, then maybe Cupcake Club, a church group, a class pass to your gym, and the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs is for you.
  • Go to involvement fairs. If you don’t know where to start, go to the involvement fairs on campus. Typically they are held the summer before your freshman year during orientation and during the first week or two of classes. They are the perfect way to find a few organizations to check-out to see if you might be interested in joining.

Making New Friends

The hardest thing for me in finding and making new friends was that I didn’t come to my university with a group of friends from high school. Being the only person from my graduating class to come to my university, it was a bit nerve racking at first to realize I didn’t have some of my closest friends by my side. If I’m being completely honest, that is what gave me the push to get out and make friends once I got to college.

  • Meet the people on your floor. One of the most fun things after a long day of classes followed by an equally long sorority chapter meeting is coming back to your dorm’s lounge and seeing familiar faces. When you move into your dorm, introduce yourself to people, even if it means that you are knocking door to door. I promise it doesn’t make you “weird” or “strange”. In fact, when a girl from down the hallway went knocking on doors to meet people, we were excited to meet her because someone knocked on our door. It’s the little things, guys.
  • Join organizations. I quickly joined two organizations within the first few weeks of my freshman year and made some of my very closest friends that way. Since I joined organizations of interest to me, I was able to meet like-minded people that enjoyed the same things I did.
  • Talk to people in your classes. Whether it is someone in your math class or the fitness class that you joined, talk to them. One of my best friends is a girl that I met in my cycling class and I’m forever grateful that I decided to say “hi” to her during my first time attending.
  • Ask people to hang-out. Don’t just sit around and wait for someone to ask you to go to something, be the one to initiate it. If you have gotten to know people well enough that you have their cell phone number, never hesitate to ask them if they want to get coffee, meet in the library to study, or invite them to church.

The Freedom/Independence

Since you are no longer living under your parent’s roof, you have a completely new sense of freedom. No more texting where you are at and checking in throughout the night about your whereabouts and when you will be home and most of all, no more curfew. With this new found freedom comes some responsibility on your end. It is up to you how you choose to manage yourself with this new found freedom you have.

  • Set standards for yourself. Personally, I don’t drink, but I still like to be back to my apartment by 11pm on school nights so that I can get a good amount of sleep before my 9am class. If you are choosing to drink, set a limit on how much you will drink and have a time that you want to be home by.
  • Don’t go too crazy. For some people, the new found freedom they have is overwhelming in the sense of “what will I do first?” Many of the things that people want to do are dangerous for them both physically and academically in that if you go too crazy, you are not only hurting yourself, but could be expelled from the university. Please, please, please do not take advantage of your new found freedom.
  • Have a friend to check-in with. It sounds super weird and a little like you are going back to under your parents roof, but if you feel that you will take advantage of your new found freedom or won’t follow the curfew you set for yourself, have a friend on your floor that you can check-in with to stay accountable. It might be something you only have set in place for the first month of school, but is a great thing to consider continuing after that just in case. When one of my friend’s got into her first car wreck late into the evening on a Friday night, it was great that she had several numbers of people in our dorm to come and help her out!

Roommates

Besides having shared a room with my younger sibling on vacation and with friends during summer camp, I had never shared a room with someone for an extended period of time. It was a major adjustment to me personally to realize that my roommate might be a night owl was I was a morning person, that even if I had the door locked and was enjoying some time to myself she still had a key to access the room, and that we might have completely different expectations of how things would work within our dorm room.

  • Make a roommate contract. I was surprised when I talked to a friend that mentioned that her and her roommate hadn’t written a roommate contract because they are required at my university. Some things that you might want to think about are:
    • Will you allow guests to spend the night? If so, how many nights are acceptable?
    • Will you have quiet hours in your room or times set each week so that both you and your roommate can have some time alone?
    • If one roommate wants to go to bed and the other stays up, will the lights stay on or be turned off, should headphones be worn, etc.?
    • If any noise in on in your room, should headphones be worn? Or even have examples of when headphones are or are not acceptable.
    • Will you be sharing food, clothing, shoes, etc.? If so, set the boundaries of when they need to ask or if they can just borrow the item.
  • Communicate. If there was something that wasn’t covered in your roommate contract that your roommate does that bothers you or that you aren’t sure of, don’t be afraid to speak up. I promise, mentioning it to them won’t make you bossy, mean, or stuck-up. Talking to them now instead of not saying anything about it will help you to avoid any difficulties with them later down the line.
  • Talk to your RA. If something comes up with your roommate and you are unsure of how to handle it, talk to your RA. Chances are, they are someone who had difficulties with a roommate in the past and they also received lots of training so they know the rules of how to handle things.

If you are going to college, which of these tips do you plan to utilize? If you are already in college, is there anything you would add to this list or a point in this list that you think incoming freshmen should pay close attention to? I would love hear about it in the comments below!

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Senior year is one of the most exciting, stressful, drawn-out years of high school that there could be. While you are experiencing it, it couldn’t be over fast enough, but looking back you wonder where the time went. Now that I’ve graduated high school and have a year of college under my belt, looking back there are some things that I wished I had known, so I thought that I should share the knowledge and pass it on to you.

soontobeseniorsguide

  1. Take the SAT/ACT at least one more time. I know that you were ready to move on from that phase in your life, but just one more try towards the end of your second semester in school with the goal to raise your score by just one or two more points can help immensely with the dollar amount you can get scholarship wise. And if you score is like mine and stays the same when you take it again, that’s okay too. Just know that you tried one more time, because if your score does raise that extra $500-1,200 in scholarship money you can get really pays off.
  2. Be smart about the classes you take. Typically, you want senior year to be the easiest year possible, your mind is on summer mode, and you are ready to move on from the beige hallways of your high school. But the thing is, a year off from a school subject is a long time to not be learning or reviewing that material. I’m a marketing major and have to take a lot of math classes, so even though I had my 3 required math classes done after junior year, I knew that not taking math my senior year was not a good idea. It was so worth another year of math when I had to take college algebra one semester and calculus the next.
  3. Schedule your senior pictures early on. The best piece of advice I got from a friend that was older than me before I went into my senior year of high school was to schedule my senior pictures as soon as possible and even get them taken early on if I wanted to. Not only are photographers typically booked several weeks out, but second semester of your senior year is pure craziness. It’s nice to get your pictures crossed off the to-do list early on and know that you can have your pictures taken by the photographer you want. My photographer was actually booked 3 months out, so I was super glad that I had contacted her early.
  4. Schedule a venue/plan where you graduation party will be. While yes, you still aren’t graduating for almost a year venues fill a lot more quickly than you think they do, especially with so many high schools having graduation the same week ends. Now is the perfect time to figure out if you want to have your graduation party on your own, with a group of your fellow graduates, and if you want to have it at a venue or at your house. Planning now will save you so much stress once second semester rolls around.
  5. Work on your senior board/scrapbook/project now rather than later. Different schools typically ask for different things of their graduating seniors, so whatever your school asks of you is something you can start working on. Our school asked for seniors to bring in twelve photos from throughout their life, a senior scrapbook, and a senior board. So even if you aren’t making your scrapbook/board at the moment, at least start going through pictures now to figure out which ones are your favorite.
  6. Apply for colleges the day it opens to apply. Unless the first day college applications open is the day for early decision, apply to schools the day the applications open. A fun fact about college is that the earlier you apply and are accepted, the earlier you can pick your dorm room and classes. And as a freshman in college, your class options already aren’t going to be the best, so take any advantage you can get.
  7. Apply for at least one scholarship a week. When I was applying for scholarships, I looked at the $50 scholarships and laughed. What in the world would $50 get me in college? That barely paid for the front cover of one of my text books. Looking back now, even if the scholarship only pays for the “front cover of your text book”, go for it! The little scholarships add up to so much more than you ever think they will. Every little bit you can get helps and counts towards something.
  8. Have a college essays folder saved on your computer. The more college applications and scholarship forms you will out, the more you realize many of the applications and forms have fairly similar questions. Typically, there will be about 5-7 essay questions that seem to appear on every application. My biggest piece of advice is that you sit down and write these essays and save them in a folder on your computer where you can find them. Sometimes you will have to do a little bit of editing to the essay, but it is so much easier to edit than to completely write a new essay.
  9. Get a job and save. If you aren’t already working somewhere, I highly encourage you to get a job and start putting money back for school. While it isn’t fun saving all of your hard earned money, it really pays off the summer before your freshman year when you can buy a new laptop for yourself and buy all of the necessities for your dorm room.
  10. “Senioritis” isn’t an excuse. I know that you are ready to be done with high school and move on with your life, but lazing off because you are suffering from an extended case of senioritis is not an excuse. Keep working hard to keep your GPA up (yes, it still counts even after you get accepted into college) and stay involved in your activities. I pinky promise it’s a wonderful year that goes by way too quickly.
  11. Learn to use a planner. I know I say it in the majority of my posts, but I say it because it is so important. If you have made it to your senior year without using a planner to stay on top of things, start learning how to use one and refer it to now so that your first year of college isn’t a complete shock. Your senior year has a lot of deadlines for both your high school and the colleges that you are applying to, so I highly recommend sitting down and writing down those dates along with any sports schedules and upcoming test dates.
  12. Have a back-up plan. I have absolutely no intention of coming off harsh in this statement, I am just being honest that you need to have a back-up plan. Sometimes, things don’t go the way we planned and the heart-breaking rejection letter comes in the mail. Please don’t be the person that only applied to one school that has to make quick decisions now on where they want to go. No matter what, the rejection letter will still bring heart ache, but at least you have a back-up plan to fall back on no matter what. And I promise, if any of this happens to you, keep your head up. It all works out for the best.
  13. Enjoy every minute of it. Before you know it, May is just around the corner and you have a last minute fitting of your graduation gown. The day that you have been waiting for since you graduated kindergarten and they announced, “And we now present to you, the future graduating class of 2014” has finally come all too soon. Enjoy every minute of it from the math tests you stress over entirely too much to how annoying everyone thinks the let out bell at the end of class is.

Are you going to be a senior in high school? Do you think any of these tips will help you? If you have completed senior year, is there anything you would add to this list? And finally, are there any other posts about high school that you would like to see? I’d love if you left a comment below.

Thank you guys so much for all of the love on this post. It would make my day if you clicked over on the social media icons on my sidebar and followed me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I definitely have more senior year related posts coming your way that I can’t wait to share!