How decided should I be when I submit my college applications?


Last year when I submitted my college applications, I remember wondering often if I was sure enough of where I wanted to go to school. Now, my girlfriend is beginning to apply to schools, and she’s feeling anxious because she’s really not sure where she wants to go still.

Obviously, before turning in college applications, you have a nice variety of colleges to choose from. But once application due dates start hitting, your options will become much narrower. This can be a good thing, or it can be a bad thing, depending on how you want to look at it. But whichever way, it’s important to feel at least some level of certainty with the schools you chose to apply to.

You want each school you send an application to be a potential choice for you, not just some school you choose for the sake of choosing. Unless you have enough money to apply to schools simply for bragging rights, applying to schools on a whim is going to cost a lot of money (and time).
Here are some ways of helping to feel good about your choices:

MAKE SOME LISTS

For each school you’re applying to, stop and think, “Why am I applying here?” Try to make a list of things you believe are good about the school, maybe its reputation or its location. What’s the main reason you’re applying to the school? See if you can come up with a good list of things better than “I chose it randomly”.
While you’re at it, go ahead and make a small list of negative aspects about the school too.

DO SOME BASIC RESEARCH.

If you’ve never looked into the school at all, now is the time to start. You don’t need to thoroughly research the school at this point, but it’s important to catch any red flags early on. Students Review is a great site for doing some basic research on what students have to say about the school.
Compare what you read to your list. See how many of your points still stand and which ones have changed, and decide if you’re still interested in potentially attending the school.
For example, I applied to one school, and after applying I learned it really wasn’t somewhere I was interested in attending. Had I done some research beforehand, I could have saved the time and money of applying there.

BACKUP SCHOOL

Even though your backup school is simply a backup, it’s somewhere that you want to be able to see yourself at as well. In theory, the main difference between a backup school and the other main schools you’re applying to should be that your backup school is less selective.
So when selecting your backup school, try not to think of just a school that’s easy to get in to. Remember, in the worst-case scenario, you could end up actually attending that school. Select a school that you would honestly give some thought to if you knew you had no chance at the more selective ones.

DON’T WORRY IF YOU CAN’T CHOOSE BETWEEN WHERE YOU’VE APPLIED TO

If you already have a main choice of the schools you’ve applied to, that’s great! But if you don’t, then don’t worry. You still have many months to make that final choice. At this point, you don’t need to have a preference of the schools you’re applying to.
However, you want to have reasons for why you’ve chosen to apply where you have. Even though you may not be able to apply to every school, or there may be other schools that offer what your choices do, that’s fine. But for the schools you’re applying to, make sure your reasons for considering the school are fairly solid and that you could potentially see yourself attending that school.
When I turned in my applications, I had no clue which of the schools I would end up attending, and in fact, at the time I was even leaning against UCSC. But for each of the schools, I knew why I was applying there, and in the end, that was more than enough certainty.