Things about college that I wish I knew sooner

An opinion piece that busts myths and lists tips


Burruss Hall, the main hall at Virginia Tech, a school many Battlefield students strive to attend.

Rebecca Cutsinger, Author

Applying to college is one of the most talked about, stressed about, and worried about topics during senior year. For me, it seemed as if everyone single person knew exactly what they wanted to do, exactly where they wanted to go, and that their dream school campus felt like home. I, however, did not feel like that at all. I felt as if I was behind because I did not know exactly where I wanted to go the summer before my senior year.

I started my college search online just like everyone else. I tried to fill out surveys that would match me to my perfect school, but I could not answer some of the most basic questions. I did not know whether or not I wanted to stay in-state or go out of state, I did not know what I wanted to major in, or whether I wanted a big or small school. All of my peers had gone to visit a campus, and said things like “I know I’m meant to go here,” or “It just felt like home.” My experience was different. It was not until I started talking with adults that worked on different campuses that I started to realize so many things I thought were true about applying to college were actually not true at all.

Myth number one: Love at first sight

I talked to many graduates and current students from many different schools and I was surprised at the number of them that chose the school they did – and at first, did not love it. A tour guide from JMU told me that he chose to go to JMU without even visiting the campus. He is now one of the school’s biggest advocates, as he leads around prospective students. I learned from other students as well that it was not until after their first year at college that they felt like they were in the right place, but as soon as they did, they could not imagine going anywhere else. Loving a school takes time, so do not be afraid to choose a school or apply if the school is not your ride or die. People also transfer colleges more often than you think, so if you end up hating it, you can transfer the next semester.

Myth number two: Applying early is your only chance at scholarship money

I was told that if a student wanted any chance at money from a school they had to apply early. After talking with a previous George Washington University Applicant Reviewer I learned that most schools do set aside scholarship money for students who do not apply early. It is true that early applicants get a better shot, but your chance at money is far from gone if you do not apply early.  

Myth number three: unweighted GPA does not matter

I was always told going through high school that taking AP classes to get that GPA bump was a must, and that colleges want to see a GPA that clears a 4.0. After talking with officials at JMU, more and more colleges are focusing on a student’s unweighted GPA, ignoring that AP bump. That means the B+ you got in that AP class is still just a B+. Colleges believe there is a high rate of grade inflation across the country, so taking away a padded GPA helps them better evaluate a student. My advice: only take AP classes you know you can do well in, taking an AP class and getting a B when you know you could have gotten an A in the regular class might hurt you more than you think.

Final Tips:

  • Most colleges still require recommendation letters. Teachers have lives too and are not responsible for making sure you get into college. If you plan to ask a teacher to write you a recommendation, ask them in person, and ask months before the application deadline.
  • The more colleges you visit and tour, the better understanding you will have about what it is that you like in a college
  • Most colleges keep record of students who have shown interest in them, if you really want to get in, email the college, go to college fairs, and take an official tour of the campus!
  • Due dates for applications approach quickly, so do not put them off.

Applying to college can be scary and overwhelming, but if you break it down, and take time to think about different aspects of college itself, everything will become more clear. I urge you to listen to your peers. They can give you valuable information you may not get anywhere else, but also try not compare yourself to them. What is right for their future and what is right for yours can be totally different.