Park University hosted the first of three “Get On Board” days on April 11, welcoming incoming freshmen of the Class of 2018 to campus to take care of a lot of the final steps in the college application process. But it was just the culmination of a long process, equal parts unnerving and exhilarating. Students run a daunting gauntlet of deadlines, ACT tests, application essays, campus visits and life-changing decisions. Parents walk the line that separates encouragement and support from hovering and hounding.
Admissions office staff at Park University in Parkville, Mo., high school students, Park students and a parent recently weighed in on what they’ve learned from their journey into the Land of the Most Amazing College Application Process Ever. Here are some of their tips to help students and parents survive (spoiler alert: it’s not all scary):
1. Start Early
Admissions professionals encourage students to start looking at colleges their freshman year of high school. According to Katherine Springston, assistant director of daytime admissions at Park, students should not only take classes that will best prepare them for college but be cognizant of their GPA and its role in winning scholarships. “By the junior year, it’s time to get serious and narrow down the list of potential schools,” she said.
2. Diversify Your List
Anna Menninger, a Park sophomore from Platte City, Mo., recalls that her list of six potential colleges included institutions large, small, public and private. “You need a mix. You might think you like one thing and then discover you don’t,” she said. She chose Park when she realized she preferred small. “My friends in high school went to big schools, but after two visits to Park, I knew it was the right choice for me.”
3. Keep an Open Mind
High school senior Haley Weatherford of Lee’s Summit, Mo., was intent on “getting out of Missouri” for college. But then she attended a local college fair where she met a Park representative. “What really knocked my socks off was that Park didn’t talk to me like I was a potential recruit but because I was Haley and they liked me,” she said. “The rep asked me to fill out a card ‘because I want to know you.’”
Contrary to her original intent, Weatherford ended up applying only to Park. She also received a scholarship covering tuition and housing for four years and a study abroad stipend.
4. Know What’s Important
Students should make a list of what’s important, students who’ve been there say. On-campus housing, small classes, close to home? Athletics, access to public transportation and shopping?
“The role of Admissions counselors is to really understand applicants,” Springston said. “It’s not just about the GPA but about the fit. At Park we look for students who see the potential in themselves and are motivated to get involved in campus life.”
5. Ask Questions
Students sometimes fail to ask questions, especially if they’re the first members of their family to attend college. “If a student doesn’t feel like asking an admissions counselor, they should ask their high school guidance counselor,” Springston said. “They’re going to need a little extra bit of help, especially with financial aid processes. My advice? Use the resources around you.”
Check out the gallery of photos from our first Get On Board day for a taste of what it’s like. And make sure you come back next week as we bring you the rest of our top ten tips to making the college application process the best time of your life!