5 Reasons to Apply to Multiple Schools

a girl reading a piece of paper she received in a large manila envelope.

Going into my senior year, I had everything mapped out. I visited Truman State University and immediately fell in love with the campus and atmosphere. There was no other place that I wanted to go. Later that spring I found out about William & Mary in Virginia, the school Thomas Jefferson went to. It was a school that seemed so perfect there was no need for a back-up plan. I only submitted one application because there was only one school I felt I should go to. Problem is, William & Mary did not agree and I got the rejection letter in the middle of April without time to apply to a different school.

Nearly 37 percent of all college students will transfer schools at some point in their educational journey. That was the case for me when I eventually made my way to my first dream school, Truman State, after spending two years at a local college. Millions of students across the country feel the same as I did, lacking other options when their main plans did not work out. As a student who went through this struggle and as a former college advisor, I’ve learned that one of the biggest keys to academic success is feeling some investment in your school, which is why most students only apply to their top choice.

Today I want to talk about five reasons you should apply to multiple schools. Hopefully, this will help you as well!

1. Circumstances change.

A lot can happen during the course of your senior year. Your relationships will change, you’ll gain new interests, etc. I was someone looking for a small school with a rigorous academic focus but chose to go to a school close to home instead. Likewise, there are plenty of students across the country whose priorities are constantly changing. To counter this, it is crucial that you apply to more than one school.

If you’re undecided on a major, a community college might be a better short-term option where you can get your general education credits out of the way before deciding on your path. You may also consider getting your associate degree or a certificate first, then if you decide you want to do more, you can stack those credentials by getting your bachelor’s degree later.

Applying to two universities, differing in demographics and campus, can provide a chance to have two styles of campus. When I was a College Advisor, I had a student who was offered a volleyball scholarship after she played in a spring tournament. This changed her options drastically and she ended up choosing a school she never considered before. It’s not always a bad thing!

Applying to at least three schools gives you a buffer if there is a major change that occurs outside of your control as well.

2. Other schools might offer more money!

Did you know that you could be accepted to multiple schools at the same time? Before you register for classes at your school of choice, it is a good option to apply to multiple schools and send them your FAFSA information. When filing your FAFSA you can indicate that you want your information sent to over ten universities. Each will give you information on how much financial aid they can provide. Remember, circumstances can change drastically during the year, so it is always important to see what the best financial option might be.

By looking at their multiple financial aid award letters, one student of mine was able to figure out exactly what ACT score they would need to achieve to make their top school financially viable.

3. There are ways to pay for application fees.

two people comparing numbers between a calculator and a piece of paper.

A big reason most people only apply to one school is application fees. They can range from low ($20), to medium ($60), to high (over $100). That can add up fast if you are applying to multiple schools. But there are ways to make it cheaper to apply to more colleges! First, if you are a student on free and reduced lunch or Pell eligible, you qualify for a national application fee waiver. Talk to your high school counselor about getting a fee waived. There are no limits to how many waivers you can fill out. If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, the university itself might be able to help. Many universities will waive application fees for students who come visit the campus or have talked to an admissions representative. Not only does that make the application cheaper, it gives you a chance to go visit schools.

There are also many schools that do not require an application fee for applying. All community colleges have a free application, meaning you are guaranteed at least one additional application that you will not have to pay for.

4. It makes the college process less stressful.

There is no denying that picking a university is a difficult choice for a high school senior. Especially if there are certain requirements you need to pass before you are officially accepted. The biggest of these obstacles for most students is standardized tests. The ACT and SAT can, not only decide if you can afford to go to the school of your choice, it can determine if you even get in at all. My ACT score was too low to get into William & Mary, but was good enough for Truman State. Some schools are even moving away from the standardized test score altogether. When you apply to multiple schools with different requirements for acceptance, it makes this score less impactful.

5. Don’t let rejection bring you down.

a teen writing things down in a notebook.

April of my senior year I was out of time and options. The only school I could see myself at did not accept me, and I did not finish the application to the only other school I visited. I eventually attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City for two years before transferring to Truman State. UMKC is a GREAT school, but I never felt personally connected with my choice. A lot of that was because I was judging it compared to the school I really wanted to attend. That attitude hurt my grades and my morale. The only solution was to go somewhere else for a fresh start.

This year, students across the country will get the same bad news. They did not get into the school of their dreams. But that should not be the end of your educational journey! By applying to multiple schools that you enjoy, you save yourself from feeling defeated. The main key to success in college is having an investment in your studies and that comes from being invested in your time at school. There is no such thing as a “safety school,” just other options you might enjoy if the first one does not work out.

5 Reasons to File a FAFSA

Every year, the U.S. Department of Education gives roughly $120 billion in federal loans, grants, and work-study funds to more than 13 million college students. These funds are awarded only to those who file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

By not submitting a FAFSA, students are leaving billions of dollars on the table, and are missing out on a pretty great deal. Federal loans have low interest rates, federal grants don’t need to be repaid, and work-study programs are a great way to pay for college while building your resume. And about 90 percent of high school seniors who submit a FAFSA enroll in college the following fall semester, whereas only about half of the high school seniors who do not submit the form end up enrolling in the fall. Filing a FAFSA to see what financial aid you qualify for could be the deciding factor.

The point is, there is NO reason you shouldn’t submit a FAFSA, and countless good reasons why you SHOULD. Here are five:  

More than just a loan

While most students submit a FAFSA as a way of securing a low-interest loan from the federal government, filing a FAFSA is also the only way to become eligible for certain types of aid that don’t need to be paid back. Every year, millions of dollars in grants and scholarships from states and universities are distributed based on financial need, and the only way to qualify for this aid is by submitting a FAFSA.

Most students qualify

You may qualify for free aid, like the Pell grant, or Access Missouri grant, but you won’t know unless you file. Anyone with a household income below $250,000 is eligible to receive some form of federal aid, as long as they submit a FAFSA. While only 5 percent of U.S. households make too much money to qualify for federal aid, more than 40 percent of high school seniors fail to file a FAFSA.

Federal loans are easier to pay off than private loans

Some students, instead of filing a FAFSA, choose to borrow money from private lenders such as banks, credit unions, state agencies, and even schools. However, there are many benefits to choosing a federal student loan over a private student loan.

The first is interest rates. In most cases, the interest rate on Federal loans is lower than those of private loans. The federal interest rate is also fixed and won’t change, whereas private loans can have variable interest rates, which are harder to predict.

Payments on Federal loans aren’t due until six months after you graduate or leave college, so you’ll have a grace period to land on your feet before your first payment is due. However, many private lenders require students to start making payments while they are still finishing school. Federal loans can also be deferred or put in a forbearance period if you are experiencing certain hardships, like a job loss or medical issue.  

It’s free to submit

It costs nothing to file a FAFSA, and you won’t be required to accept any aid you are offered. High schools across Missouri host FAFSA Frenzy events, where students can receive free help filling out their FAFSA. The FAFSA is easier now than it has ever been, with more simplified questions coming in the next few years.

Your financial situation could change

Unexpected crises, such as a global pandemic, create financial difficulties. One day, you could have a complex spreadsheet, mapping out exactly how you plan to pay for every one of your expenses; the next day, something bad happens – your income level changes, your employer goes out of business, a family member has a medical emergency, etc. – and your entire plan is sent into a tailspin. When special circumstances arise, you can appeal to your college’s financial aid office for additional assistance. Filing the FAFSA gives them a starting point to understand your financial situation. If things have changed, colleges can often use what’s called “professional judgment” to help you overcome new financial challenges and help get you back on your feet.

Making the most of a virtual internship

In the world of COVID-19, virtual may be the new normal for a lot of people. Going forward, school, work, and meetings will likely include an online or remote element. The same can be said for internships.

Internships provide great opportunities for college students to gain insights into the work they will be doing in their chosen career path. However, an internship where the work is done primarily in a remote setting can come with a few added difficulties.  

Here are some tips on how you can make the most of a virtual internship:

Ensure that you have good communication skills

It is hard sometimes to understand certain projects or work you may be assigned. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for clarification. A simple email or call could be the difference between completing the project successfully and messing it up. Do not be afraid to ask questions, you are not in the physical office building, so communication is essential!

Establish a schedule

Being a virtual intern means there is a lot more room for distraction than if you were in person. By establishing set times throughout the week to work on assignments for your internship, you will be organized and get things done on time.

Plan introductory meetings with the staff you will be working with

Establishing good working relationships is a little more difficult when you are interning virtually, but it is not impossible! Ask your supervisor which staff members you’ll be working closely with. Then schedule meetings with those staff members and get to know them. Just because your internship is virtual does not mean you can’t create mutually beneficial relationships with your coworkers!

Get the most out of the internship that will benefit you in the future

Internships may be a little different virtually, but that does not mean they are any less important. Work hard on all the projects you are given, ask for feedback, establish what kind of work you enjoy, and make sure to challenge yourself. If you feel like your workload is a little light, ask your boss for a few additional projects. A virtual internship may be hard at first, but you can get just as much out of it as you would if you were in person!

Why making connections is essential for college freshmen

College is a very different experience than high school.

High school offers students structure. College offers students freedom. Take advantage of that freedom and you’ll graduate college with connections and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Step out of your comfort zone.

The best way to make connections at college is to get involved on campus, whether that be through Greek life, student run organizations, or talking to your instructors after class and during their office hours.

When you first get to college in August, start out by getting to know the people on your floor and in your residence hall.

Don’t be overwhelmed thinking you won’t have time for outside activities and responsibilities. You’ll only be in class for about 15 hours a week, which leaves plenty of time for working, studying, joining clubs, and hanging out with friends.   

Most colleges have different introduction events when students first move to campus, such as ice cream socials, mixers, concerts, sporting events, and activity fairs. Attend these events with an open mind. Stepping out of your comfort zone is not always easy, but over time, you will find it is almost always worth it.  

Build relationships with professors.

Many professors have office hours, in which students are encouraged to come in for one-on-one meetings. Making connections early on with your professors will prove beneficial when it comes time for midterm and finals, as well as when you start apply for internships, jobs, and/or graduate school and need letters of recommendation. Professors sometimes have hundreds of students in varying classes, so make sure they know your name and how much effort you’re putting into their class.

Remember, professors are there to help. Don’t hesitate to ask.