Alisa Delaj, ‘17
Many students can agree that the college process is stressful, but you never really know how hard it is until you are involved in it. I remember back in Year 1 when we first started CTO and everything seemed so far away and looked so simple that I never really paid mind to it. In my head, all I had to do was write a college essay and some supplements and then fill out the FAFSA. After a fairly terrible first draft of a college essay, a few months had passed and it was November. I realized I had no idea what I was doing. When I actually started the tasks I said I was going to do in order to apply to college, it hit me like a storm. This was actually going to be a lot harder than I thought. I’d sit through CTO advisory and it would all make sense, only to walk out panicking over the fact that I had three hours of homework plus a bad essay to complete and no clue of what I was going to do next. I couldn’t help but think, “What if you don’t like your college, what if you’re not sure what to major in, what if you don’t have the money, and what if you don’t get accepted anywhere?” The way I like to plan out events in my life is to prepare for any situation. I would have a solid plan of what I wanted to do, and then I would have several backups just in case the first plan doesn’t work out. This is how I planned out my high school process; the fact that I couldn’t plan the college process like this may have been why I was always so clueless and lost. It seemed as if everyone else knew what they were doing besides me.
Then again, I can’t say that only bad things happened during these times of stress. After looking up some ideas online and reading through some of my peer’s college essay drafts, it hit me one December night at 1:00 am: the perfect idea for my college essay. I wrote until I came up with a piece that truly reflected my fun and goofy personality. This writing rush carried into winter break, which was spent writing supplements. After a few sessions at the writing center, my supplements looked good and my essay was like a breath of fresh air. A few weeks later, when I finally submitted all my college applications, it felt like such a rush to see that list of green check marks on the Common Application. The confirmation emails felt even better. This huge weight was just lifted off my shoulders and I finally felt like I could relax. But, like the corny horror movies, right when you let your guard down, another monster pops up that’s actually worse than the last.
This ugly monster is known a financial aid. Ah, something that probably wouldn’t be needed as much if schools were only reasonably priced (or even free)! But, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves here. I must say that I couldn’t have had a worse experience during the college process than dealing with financial aid. I was aware of the FAFSA, but I neglected the fact that the CSS Profile was a lot longer and that it had to be done since nearly every school I applied to required it. I started with the FAFSA because I thought it would just be much easier to complete than the CSS. I’d just like to place emphasis on the word “thought.” I come from a family of immigrants, who never really had to deal with processes like financial aid in communist Albania, which meant that I was on my own. A large stack of disorganized files and misplaced documents on the computer really did not help my experience. After figuring out my paperwork, it took about 5 days to correctly fill out the FAFSA, since I couldn’t find the documents I needed online. The CSS also took about 5 days, but I guarantee it would have taken about a week and a half to finish if I had started with that rather than the FAFSA. Then, after waiting a few weeks, my Student Aid Report finally came in. Then we can just skip over the fact that the agency forgot to verify one of my important documents, and now I need to manually do it by sending it to every single financial office of the colleges I’m applying to. Isn’t it exciting that this has to be repeated every year?
Despite all this, at least I can now confidently say that I am finished with the college application process and will hopefully never have to look back at this. I just want to wish all my Year 2 classmates the best when choosing colleges and I hope everyone goes to a place they love that can make their dreams come true. After all the work and the good and bad times we’ve had at BHSEC, everyone deserves a happy ending to the high school chapter of their life.