Ranch Reflections are articles written by students who want to share their experiences, thoughts, and concerns. This is a great opportunity for students to branch out beyond traditional news stories.  This edition features the efforts of a”Mustangs Ahead” senior as she navigates college planning .

Marissa Briggs– Mustangs Ahead

The author researches college options.

(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL)- With endless amounts of free time due to being quarantined in spring, I took it upon myself to get a head start on my college applications.

I decided to use “common app,” which I found to be an easy, efficient way to apply to a variety of different colleges at once. I have kept track of every club, community service, and major award that I wanted displayed to colleges, so inputting this into the program was easy. After filling out other essential information, such as my major and personal information, I started to focus on my transcript.

I used the Self-reported Student Academic Record (SSAR), which made it easy to record and send my transcript. However, some colleges were more specific with the programs they would accept, and I had to create my transcript on other applications such as SPARK and common app. If your college does not specify, the SSAR site was the easiest and quickest way to develop your high school transcript.

When it came to writing my personal essay, I wanted to make it both meaningful to me but also saw it as an opportunity to show college admissions the parts of me not obvious on my application. I connected my major to my essay and mentioned how my rare and unique qualities will help me exceed expectations and add diversity to college campuses.

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The application process was quick and caused little to no stress; however, the prospect of deciding what colleges I wanted to choose was daunting. Obviously, I know I will not be accepted into every college I apply to, which in the end helped me eliminate some of my potential choices.

I made a list of what I wanted in a college such as large class sizes, access to internships and job opportunities, a great Creative Writing program, study abroad opportunities and affordable tuition. After making this list, I started to look at colleges in Florida that fit this description and looked briefly at schools out of state.

After days of research, I decided on six colleges to apply to: The University of Florida (UF), Florida State University (FSU), the University of Central Florida (UCF), the University of Cincinnati (UC), Harvard University (HU), and Clemson University (CLEM). Harvard was my reach school but made sure the other universities I was applying to were realistic possibilities.

I believe everyone should apply to a backup school and a reach school.  One never knows where they will get accepted. If your reach school is out of your price range, there are plenty of scholarships and grants available. Even if you are not able to be rewarded a large scholarship, a lot of small ones add up fast and can help lower this cost.

The college application process is a long one and choosing one college out of the six I applied to in the spring will be difficult. I was selective enough in the process of choosing where to apply to that I will succeed wherever I choose to attend.