The First Step when Applying to College is Self-Reflection

Prospective students walk across Ho Plaza towards McGraw Tower

By: Richard Onyejuruwa, Assistant Director for Diversity Outreach

When my mentor and I were talking a while back, we somehow ended up discussing the college process. He asked me, “When do you think the college process starts?” I responded, “Well, when you first make contact with the institution or check it out online.” He told me, “Nope. It starts way before you even make a single click online or make a single phone call to an admissions office.”

Allow me to share the lesson I learned with you, and perhaps you can share it with your students.

When does the college process actually start?
I have found it very helpful in life to keep all matters in a good perspective. For this reason, I always find it imperative to remind every student I work with that no institution is a destination or a guarantee to a particular destiny or life. The school is nothing without its students. Every school is just a stepping stone to your next chapter in life. The resources each school provides are tools to help explore your interests and enhance your skills. Every school has its own DNA or way of operating, just like how we are all different and have our own DNA. This is why before you look up the school or make a phone call to an admissions office, students should first ask themselves — what is my DNA? Who am I?

Who are you as a person?
What do you enjoy doing? How do you make friends? What takes up most of your time? Time taken for self-assessment will help students as they assess campus life and resources at each college/university they explore. They then enter their college search knowing what they want to see on a school’s campus.

Who are you as a student?
Every student is different. Some students thrive in a small classroom, and others feel right at home in a room of 100 students. Some prefer a class where no two days are the same, and others prefer a more traditional setting. Some students excel in math or science, and others excel in literature or social studies. There are no “right” choices, but assessing these choices and preferences is helpful when it comes to reviewing the academic environment and resources of each school.

It’s all about research and matching.
The research process can be very time-consuming. Students shouldn’t fall into the trap of looking at themselves and the institutions at the same time. They should know themselves first and then look for a match. Students will benefit from being able to understand themselves first, which will also impact how students approach their essays. Instead of trying to convey why they are a good fit for the college, they will discuss why the college is a good fit for them.

Keep it all in perspective.
Applying to college is not an easy process — but we don’t need to make it more complicated. Encouraging our students to take time to assess who they are as a person and as a student does not just help them get through the college application process; it reminds them of who they are and how far they have come. Our students should be proud of themselves and reminded at every turn that they are not alone. In the same spirit, I remind all of you that, as counselors and guardians of the future, you are not alone. We are here to help!