What I wish I knew when applying to college

Three previous college students share their experienced advice on transitioning from high school to college. 

Applying to college takes a lot of consideration and support — but thankfully, plenty of students have done it before and can share their experiences. Three former college students talk first-hand about transitioning from high school to college and share the advice they wish they had been given beforehand. Here’s what they had to say. 

Tarren Villaverde 

High school life: Junior Olympian in fencing, a Big Brother, captain of his wrestling team, National Honor Society, Art Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society. 

Sources of advice: His dad and his school counselor. “My counselor told me, ‘Keep your goals realistic.’”  

Where he attended freshman year: Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California 

Where he transferred: University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona 

While he had a lot of friends at Santa Clara, including some from high school, it made sense financially to change schools so he could take advantage of lower in-state tuition costs. He was even awarded merit-based scholarships at the University of Arizona. 

Advice he wished he’d been able to give himself: “Be more open-minded. Don’t be concerned with the name of the school. Consider all your options and keep them all on the table.” 

Ginger Sprong  

High school life: Home-school student from kindergarten through high school graduation. Volunteered at the Perot Museum in Dallas, active in youth leadership at her church, and held several jobs. Attended a local community college for dual credit classes to get started on her college education. 

Sources of advice: Her mother, who encouraged her to apply to SMU, her dual credit professors from the local community college, and her brothers who advised that applying to colleges was about “showing who you are in the best way possible.” 

Where she attended: Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas 

Advice she wished she’s been able to give herself: “Don’t worry too much. Everything works out. There are a number of schools that have awesome programs.” 

Alec Lee  

High school life: Attended a small private high school in Denver. Traveled to Europe with friends after graduation.  

Sources of advice: A family friend helped him through the application process. She coached him in writing skills, helped him weigh different factors, inspired him to explore different schools, and even encouraged him to venture out of state.  

Where he attended: Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California 

He compared the difference in costs between out-of-state schools with financial aid packages and Colorado schools offering in-state tuition. He realized that Loyola wouldn’t cost him much more than an in-state school.   

Advice he wished he’d been able to give himself: “Slowly chip away at the process. Work on it piece by piece, little by little, leading up to the deadline. Set goals along the way to get to the bigger picture.” 

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