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Dartmouth pumpkin decorations

I love my hometown and the people I grew up with. It's where I made my lifelong friendships, learned how to drive, had my first job, and many other memories I don't have time to recount here. The biggest downside to coming from a place like mine is that college really isn't a priority in the local high schools. I didn't have a clue what the common application was, how financial aid worked, or anything of the sort. Somehow, someway I was able to navigate my way through and I wound up at my dream college. It's a bit of a long story on how I finally came to apply to Dartmouth, but you can read a bit about that in a separate blog post.

There's one main point I want to make here, and that's to take it upon yourself to research opportunities that aren't presented before you. In the latter part of high school, that was the story of my life. I was and always will be interested in weather, so I took it upon myself to look for volunteer opportunities that involved meteorology (the study of the weather) in my local community. I loved golf, so I worked with my school to get a golf team established. It's the same mindset for college. Although you may not have anyone to directly rely on, you always have yourself. In some circumstances, you may not have a guidance counselor to tell you what path to take. You may not have your parents to guide you along the journey. Your teachers may not know what the process is like. Overall, you just might not have the resources available to aid you along the way. That was my case, and I'm here to tell you it's okay.

Applying to college doesn't have to be as difficult and as stress filled as it was for me. Instead of looking at it through some mystical lens like I did, I encourage you to sit down and do some thinking. Research different schools and truly try and picture yourself there. I didn't have the financial means to visit many colleges, including Dartmouth. However, I took the time to really dive into what life was like at different institutions, and Dartmouth proved worthy time and time again. Take time to research what your financial situation looks like. How do your guardian(s) feel about you moving away? How will you pay for college? I strongly encourage you to analyze each college's policy on financial aid. How much aid will you get? How does your unique financial situation pair with the college's policy? My low-income background and Dartmouth need-based financial aid made it pretty simple.

pretty foliage picture
Just balancing the serious talk with a pretty fall foliage picture!

It's really not that complicated, and this is coming from someone who, two years ago, had absolutely no idea whatsoever how to apply to a college. It just takes a little bit of determination to actually sit down, research what the process is like, and think critically about how your unique situation and desires fits in with the college application process. If I can get through it, I'm certain you can. I still can't believe I'm at Dartmouth. Day after day I tell myself how grateful I am to be here. That's a result of sitting down, reading, and learning about the process to apply.

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