The Old Chapel and library at UMass Amherst
Student Voices

Things I Wish I’d Known When I was Applying to College

College application season is upon us! Whether you are a first year student or transfer, applying to college can be a difficult process. There is a lot to handle — especially in terms of making choices. With this, the process will be a different experience for everyone. 

Here are some helpful tips I wish I knew when I was applying to college: 

Organization is Essential 

College applications can get to be all too much when you are planning your essay, supplements, and more. With all this it is extremely helpful to stay organized and make sure no deadlines are missed. 


  • Create a spreadsheet with all of the colleges you are applying to and the deadlines for them, including early action, regular decision, and rolling admissions. 
  • You may even want to add in other demographics on this sheet including the school size, program, location, and more. 
  • Print this sheet and keep it in a folder with all your other college essential materials.


Most college searches start with the perceptions students may have about whether to go to a big versus small school, as well as city versus rural. While it is important to keep these demographics — including the environment and location of the school — in mind, it is equally important to research other information as well. 


  • Research programs and academics as well not just how the school appears. That is very important too, but at the end of the day college is an investment in education, and as a student you want to be able to study exactly what you intend. If you are undecided, that’s okay too! There are many opportunities for undecided students to start a broader education and have more time to decide, such as the Umass Amherst Exploratory Track Program
  • Don't just apply to any and every school. Think through and make a list that includes safety, target, and reach schools. Applying to too many schools may leave you many options but also confusion, and too few can narrow your choices. Again, this is a choice that will vary among students, but this is why researching different universities is extremely essential. 
  • Check out the Undergraduate Admissions pages for the schools you are seeking entrance to and understand their criteria. This will help you in understanding how to target your application by bringing your strengths out. You will also be able to find a lot of helpful information and tips on these pages, as well as contact information.

Attend Campus Tours and Information Sessions 

It is never too early to start growing your network and getting your name out there! With attending campus tours and informational sessions you have an opportunity to meet other students in the same position, students in the university, and admissions officers. 


  • While attending either of these sessions bring a notebook and some pens. These sessions offer crucial application and academic programs information. If something seems important to you, make sure to jot a quick note to keep in mind for when you are applying. 
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes for campus tours and bring water! 
  • Talk to your tour guides and don’t hesitate to ask any questions. All college students have gone through the same or similar application processes. They are a great resource to ask any application or campus related questions. If you are on campus, you may also stop by the administration building for any other related questions.

Common Application

Be yourself! Make sure your Common Application reflects on your personality just as much as your academics. Colleges love to see individuals who stand out of the crowd in more ways than just academics. Whether it is an achievement you earned or a passion you want to pursue, let your personality reflect through your essay and application. 


  • Use extracurricular activities as a place to put down your involvement and describe what your passions include. If you have any leadership experience, include that as well and the tangible skills you gained with such positions. 
  • Revise your essay multiple times. Having a new set of eyes read your essay is extremely beneficial to gain new points of view and catch mistakes you might have missed. 
  • Don't leave the application for last minute. Spend time on it and be proud of your hard work when you apply

Don’t Stress It! 

You may not get into your first choice school but the opportunities don't end there. There are so many different universities to choose from. The options never end and at any school where you may end up studying, it is the work you put in that will pave your future. Never compare yourself to others through this process, because everyone has different goals for the future and you should only be focused on yours. Let yourself see all your options and you will find one that fits for you.

Good luck!