As part of our partnership with The Choice Blog, we regularly post stories of interest to students. As the college admissions process swings into full gear, we wanted to share Cassandra Dagostsino's story about aspiring to be the first in the family to go to college, and pay for it!
Going to college, and paying for it
I sit at my desk with my right hand anxiously tapping in rhythm to my iTunes, my left hand twirling the baby hairs that stick out of my ponytail, and my leg shaking of restless leg syndrome.
The college application process is an important, yet stressful, time during the first semester of what is supposed to be the best year in high school. It is already months into this process, and I have spent much time gazing at essay topics, staring at the supplement questions and scrolling through each prospective college’s Web site.
During my college search, I made a list of things I know I want to have the opportunity to do. I love dance, so my school must have dance team or dance recitals. I love softball, so my school must have a softball team or club. I love writing, so my school must have a newspaper or literary publication. I love traveling, so my school must have study abroad opportunities. I love that in my high school I am lucky enough to be able mix both of my academic passions — law and journalism — so my college must allow me to continue to pursue both of these fields by double majoring.
I have looked at colleges in the same way brides should look at their wedding dresses: the college has to fit me; I don’t alter myself to fit the college.
Although I have a clear plan for my college experience, I still have major fears. Specifically, these fears relate to the essays and supplements, the cost of applications and attendance, and actually being admitted.
The essay questions range from things as simple as “Describe yourself” to those as uncommon as “What is your favorite ride at the amusement park?” But in reality, none of these questions are actually as simple or complex as they seem, and it is all about the approach.
“How can I stand out?” I constantly ask myself. “How can I avoid cliché?”
Then there’s that word — “cliché.” Applicants are told to divert from this so frequently, how can the non-cliché not become the cliché?
Then, once the writing portion is finished, it’s the killer: the actual cost of applying. It’s $50-$75 per application, $10.50 per SAT score, and $16 per CSS profile for financial aid, and I don’t receive any fee waivers.
I feel like by the time I get to college, I will have spent all my money on applying to college.
Because I will be the first in my family to attend a four-year university, it difficult for my parents to understand what the process is truly like, and neither of them is in a position to pay for my college education.
That may be what scares me the most.
The college office and guidance department in my school suggested this breakdown for how to apply to schools: one or two “dream” schools, which means you’re reaching for a long shot; three or four reach schools, which means you have a chance of getting in; six to eight “target” schools, which means you have a reasonable chance for admission; and two to four “likely” schools, which means that you are somewhat overqualified and will almost certainly gain admission.
And so, with this method in mind, I made my list.
For me, there was not one specific type of school I liked best, but it was the offerings of each school that made me want to apply. Hence, on my list, the schools range from in-state to out of state, big to small, city to suburban, private to public. They’re all in there.
I have these set goals and dreams for college, but, since I will most likely be paying tuition through loans, the school that offers me the most money, whether it be the one I truly want to attend or not, will be a serious consideration.
The Jan. 1 and Jan. 15 deadlines are approaching, and the pressure continues.
Seven applications done and more to go, yet I still sit here tapping my hand, twirling my hair and shaking my leg, ready to endure the worst part: waiting for an admission decision.
But I couldn’t be more excited for the best part: actually going to college.
*Ms. Dagostino, a student at Brooklyn Technical High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., is one of eight seniors who will be blogging about their college searches for The Choice until May.