How To Talk To Your Classmates About College
The beginning of August generally signals the start of college applications season. Many colleges will release their application platforms or use an application website like the Common App during this time, and you will generally have until late December or early January to fill out and submit your applications. However, application deadlines vary by school and program, and each school has their own pace and schedule.
As you begin working diligently through your college applications during the fall semester, your friends are likely doing the same thing. Some of your friends may even be applying to the same colleges as you, making them “competition” from a college admissions perspective.
How should you approach conversations about college applications with your friends, especially if you are competing for admission to the same schools? In this post, we’ll walk through the do’s and don’ts of talking to your peers and classmates about the college application process without invading their privacy or causing tension.
Things You CAN Ask Your Friends When Applying to College
If the topic of college applications comes up, you don’t want to reveal too much about your own applications, but you also shouldn’t antagonize your friends by shutting them down if it comes up.
If you do have to talk about college with your friends, here are some conversation points that are safe to hit:
- Basic Application Requirements: It’s okay to talk about things like application deadlines, number of recommendation letters required, and other information that can easily be found online. In fact, it may be beneficial to clarify this basic information with your friends to ensure that you are both filling out the application thoroughly and correctly.
- Asking How They’re Doing: College applications season can be a stressful time for both you and your friends. Even if you don’t want to help each other with the applications themselves, you should still be there for your friends and make sure that they are handling the added responsibility well.
- What You’re All Looking For in a College: You don’t have to ask your friends what colleges they are applying to specifically, but you can ask them general questions about what type of school they’re looking to attend and what factors they’re taking into consideration when making their college list. Your friends could even bring up some aspect of college that you hadn’t thought of or help you weigh the pros and cons of each university you are considering. These all may influence your decision to apply or attend a college.
- Financial Aid: When discussing financial aid, there is a fine line between being respectful and being nosy. To stay on the safe side, it’s best to keep your financial aid questions generic. For example, you can discuss things like whether you want to apply for more scholarships than loans, what kind of loans you think are ideal, etc. You can also talk about specific applications as long as the application is a common one like the FAFSA. For more help with financial aid, check out our comprehensive guide to financial aid.
Topics You May Want To Stay Away From When Talking About Colleges
Even if your friend group tells each other everything, you and your friends’ academic and extracurricular profile along with your college application is private information. It may be tempting to talk about your college applications with your friends, but you risk losing your edge in the application process if your friends decide to steal your application ideas or essay strategies. So when you’re discussing college applications, you want to stay away from topics that are confidential.
Some of these topics include:
- Academic Performance: Everyone’s GPA, class rank, standardized test scores, and other metrics of academic performance are their own business. You may not want to ask your friends for the specifics of their grades and test scores even if your school seems to value it by ranking all of you.
- What Colleges You’re Applying To: This will vary from person to person. Some people are comfortable sharing which schools they’re applying to, and if that’s the case you should see whether you two are applying to similar schools and use it as an opportunity to collaborate. Some people, however, prefer not to share where they are applying to college. If that is the case, you should respect their wishes. It’s often difficult to tell what a person’s preferences are unless they’ve told you, so it may be best not to ask which colleges they are applying to just to be on the safe side.
- Any Extenuating Circumstances: Extenuating circumstances such as a disability, a difficult financial situation, or a disciplinary infraction are often touchy subjects. You may be seen as insensitive if you pry into these matters with your peers. It is worth noting, however, that these special circumstances could affect a college admissions decision, so be aware if you have any of these. To learn more, see How to Address a Mental Health Issue or Disability On Your College Application and Getting Back on Track after a Disciplinary Setback.
- Financial Aid: As mentioned above, it’s okay to discuss financial aid with your friends as long as you keep the questions general. What you shouldn’t do, however, is try to get very specific things like their scholarship and loan list or ask anything too personal like how much money they were awarded. As a general rule, don’t pry into any information that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing yourself.
- Admissions Decisions: Eventually, your friends will share with you what college they’ve chosen. However, they may not be comfortable sharing which colleges they got into, which colleges waitlisted them, and which rejected them. If so, simply congratulate them when they tell you their final college choice and don’t push the subject.
How to Approach Collaboration on College Applications
Your college application is a private matter between you and whomever you decide to collaborate with. It is also technically a competition between you and other students who are applying to the same university. Therefore, you don’t want to reveal too much about your admissions process to your peers, especially if they’re applying to the same schools.
On the other hand, having a friend or peer help you on your application can help to make your college applications better. They are the ones who know you and your personality best and can, therefore, read your application and tell you if you’re highlighting the best things about yourself.
As a general rule, helping your peers on college applications should be a two-way street. For example, if a friend asks you to read over and edit their college essay, you should agree to do so as long as they help you on one of your essays for a different college that they are not applying to. In other words, help them if they’ll help you.
Of course, each friend or group of friends is different. So as application season gets underway, assess your own friendships and see how much trust is there and how comfortable you all are with sharing information and helping each other with college applications.
It’s important to note that if you and your friends are not comfortable with sharing and collaborating on your college applications, that doesn’t mean that you are not good friends or that you don’t trust each other. You are simply respecting each other’s privacy, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
For More Information
For some free tips from students from the top schools on how to approach your college applications, check out the following blog posts:
If you’d like personalized help with your college applications, check out our College Applications Guidance Program. We’ll pair you with your own personal admissions specialist that will guide you through a comprehensive step-by-step process that will help you craft applications that give you the best chance of getting accepted. We can help you find the right schools to apply to based on your profile, craft perfect college essays, and prepare extensively for your interviews.
Want more college admissions tips?
We'll send you information to help you throughout the college admissions process.