Every year on the College Hopes & Worries Survey, we include an optional question at the end that asks respondents what advice they have for next year's applicants and parents of applicants. Here, in their own words, are the suggestions and tips of our respondents. Enjoy!

On the College Application Process

  • Start early. As a matter of fact, start now. — Diego, Moreno Valley, CA

  • Two Words: Start Early! Deadlines creep up quicker than you may anticipate. In addition, there are little things that you need to do to fulfill the application requirements. By starting early you can reduce stress levels and assure that you have enough time to get everything finished without rushing. — A.S., Naperville, IL

  • Start early and work together (students and parents). — Lauren, Columbia, MD

  • Don't start as early as I did (sophomore year), it just causes unnecessary stress and once you start, it is hard to just stop. — Bailey

  • Research, research, research. The better educated you are about the colleges, the better chance you will get the education you really want. — Elizabeth, Cohasset, MA

  • Apply early and research early. Visit college campuses in your sophomore year. Take ACT/SAT several times. Take an online ACT course  to improve your score. I did! — Edward, Lakeland, FL

  • Keep your grades up, be a part of lots of activities, and do well on your standardized tests. The earlier you apply, the better, and don't stress too much because it'll eat away at you. — Lindsey, Oviedo, FL

  • Be excited to write your college application essays . They WILL definitely be tough, but in the end, you'll look back at the experience and smile because you learn so much about yourself as a human being. It's actually quite a wonderful experience, but only if you're willing to make it a wonderful experience. — Evelyn, Arcadia, CA

  • Make sure that you apply or consider all the schools that you could possibly conceive yourself going to. Nothing is worse than "February syndrome" in which you realize you didn't apply to a school that you could see yourself attending. — Kelly, IL

  • Do not let the application process get in the way of your current academic responsibilities. This may be counterproductive. — Vanessa, Chula Vista, CA

On Stress

  • Don't freak out. College is not the end of your life. Everything will be OK. — Michael, MA

  • College is about finding your happiness, not your parents' happiness or what would look good on your bumper. Be open-minded. — Jenny, CA

  • Don't get frustrated with applications. Just think of how good you'll feel in the fall walking the halls of your chosen college. — Tyonna, MD

  • Calm down. It's only four years! — R.H., Springfield, MO

  • Have fun with it! If you enjoy the process along the way, the outcome will hopefully be more beneficial. — Abbey, LaGrange IL

  • Do not get too nervous. It's not always about getting into the most known school. — Susan, McMurray, PA

  • Don't worry! It's going to be okay. — Rachel, Los Alamitos, CA

  • Relax. Everything will work out. — Morgan, Laguna Hills, CA

  • Try not to get too stressed out even if your parents are. — Will, Norwalk CT

On Standardized Admission Tests

  • Do everything possible to get ACT/SAT score as high as possible — most important to getting $$. More important than activities, if already top 10%, more important than being #1 in class. Can't stress score enough. — Sarah, New Braunfels TX

  • Take the SAT or ACT early in your junior year so you have plenty of time to take a class, find a tutor, or study like crazy on your own. — J. H., Pickerington, OH

  • Commit to your classes because your GPA and SAT and ACT scores will really determine what school you will go to. — E., Houston TX

  • Get plenty of sleep before testing. — Richard, Waco TX

  • Get an SAT tutor to get the best possible score. — M., Santa Ana CA

  • SAT classes really help to get your child a better SAT score. — Karissa, Las Vegas NV

  • Practice from an SAT review book frequently to get a higher test score and get into a better university. — Leeza, CA

  • Stagger your standardized tests —you don't want to be taking the APs at the same time as the SATs and SAT Subject Tests! — Allyson, Scarsdale, NY

  • Take the time to prepare for tests like the SAT and ACT. And even if you scored high enough, take it again to see how you do because the higher the score, the more likely you'll get a scholarship for the college you're applying to. — G., Mission TX

  • Take the standardized tests multiple times to get the best score possible, and start looking at colleges early. — Nicole

  • Finish taking all standardized tests by junior year so in the fall of senior year, you can focus on your applications — A., Lake Ronkonkoma, NY

On College Visits

  • Visit! The feel of a school is entirely important. I visited what I thought would be my top school and campus didn't feel like home. On the other hand, I visited a college I didn't think I would be interested in and it just felt right. — Kiley, Aurora, IL

  • Visit as many colleges as possible and talk to students in college asking what you like the most and least about their college. — Patricia, Yonkers, NY

  • A college may look great on paper, but you have to go visit it. You need to rely on your gut reaction to the college itself, people on campus, and surrounding community. Do you see “people like you” on campus — people you could be friends with? Does it feel comfortable? It will be your home for 4 years. — Andrea

  • Visit every college you can! Get interviews, tours, info sessions, overnights, and attend classes. While information sites and books from companies like the Princeton Review give great information on which schools you should put on "The List," making the final decision can be largely intuition-based. This sense of intuition cannot be gained without experiencing the campus for yourself. — Bethany, Rochester, NY

  • Visit more schools than you would like to apply to. The visit (even if during the summer) is the most important part. It gave me an idea of what it would be like to live there. I saw the location, toured the buildings and met administrators. I ended up choosing a college I never imagined I would like over ones I had dreamed about for years. — Theresa, Rochester, MO

  • Visit schools sooner and spend an entire day/overnight to get a feel for what will be offered to us to help us get ready for the world. Sitting in on classes that would be part of my major would also give me an indication of what is expected of me so I could be a better student. — Larissa, Hawthorne Woods IL

On Parenting

  • Go where you want, not where your parents want. — T.M., Mason, OH

  • The most important thing to remember is you are the one going to college, not your parents. The colleges you look at should have what YOU want because you have to live with whatever decision is made. — R., Fairlawn, NJ

  • Support your kid in whatever they do as long as it's not illegal! — U., Mercer Island, WA

  • To Parents: Listen to your child about what they want, don't just simply try to force them into attending a college your child has no interest in. — Miranda, Lafayette IN

  • I would advise parents to listen to your student. Your child is becoming an adult, so it is about time to let them make their own decisions, especially one this important. Do not be afraid of letting them go because your children need to experience independence firsthand. — Stacy, Greensboro NC

  • To parents: be understanding, save, and try your best not to say they can't go. — Stephanie, New York, NY

  • Parents should at least be somewhat involved in the process. — N., Seattle WA

  • Parents: Be encouraging. Recognize when your children are stressed out and do all that you can to maximize their potential to create the best possible application. — N., Garden Grove CA

  • Parents, try not to be too overbearing. Applicants, try to realize that parents only want what's best for you! — Ariel, New York NY

  • The best thing to do is always keep talking to your parents because no matter where you go they will support you. Also your guidance counselor will make a huge difference if you keep in contact with her. — K.J., Dix Hills, NY

  • Receiving support from parents is the best thing to help the student. — Gabriela, Santa Ana, CA

  • Take a deep breath and let your parents help. They may actually know something. — Robert, CT

On Money Matters

Getting into college is the easy part. Paying for it, on the other hand, is difficult. — Tabitha, Phoenix, AZ

Don't let the cost of a college scare you. Apply anyways because financial aid is always available. — Erica, Hamburg, NY

Apply to all colleges you want to go to, even if you cannot afford it. You may be surprised how much the colleges are wiling to help you out. — Sarah, Fairlawn, NJ

Do not think that you will not have a chance to go to college due to finances, there are scholarships everywhere. — Erin, King, NC

Money is a huge factor for both you and your child. It is extremely important that you give your child a "budget" for your peace of mind and theirs. — K., Marlboro, NY

Scholarships! Make sure you apply for as many scholarships as possible and take the practice SATs multiple times because unfortunately colleges take that into big consideration. — E., Fairfax, VA

Don't give up, apply to your dream school even if you can't afford it, you might be surprised by how much financial aid is offered. — R., Farmington Hills, MI

More expensive colleges are not always better colleges. — Daniel, Ocala, FL

On Rejection

When you think you didn't get into the school you wanted, you might be getting into the school you needed. — Amy

You are smart. Don't let a rejection letter make you feel depressed. — A.P., Knoxville, TN

You may not be able to get into the top 25 schools in the country, but you will find the one that wants you as much as you want it. — H., Barrington, IL

There is a place for everyone. Relax and think of it as a journey — not a race to be won, but a home to be found. — Megan, Chapel Hill, NC

It's not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Don't worry so much about where you're going. Worry more about the mindset you go to school with. — Samuel, Wasilla AK

Try not to stress too much about the possibility of not being accepted into your first choice college, because you'll go half mad if you do so. — Sarah, IN

Breathe, and believe that everything happens for a reason. A good education comes in many forms. — M.K., WA

On Choosing Which College to Attend

College is a match, not a prize! — K., Minneapolis

Don't worry so much about what other people think is the best college for you. The only opinion that matters is your own because you will be the one spending four years of your life there. Pick the college you feel most comfortable at. — Stephanie, Windham, OH

Learn as much as you can about the college application process. Things have changed so much from the time my parents went through this. — Meghan

Don't rule out schools just because they aren't Ivy League caliber. Smaller schools have a lot to offer. — Erin, Woodridge, IL

Don't be afraid of traveling far from home and don't go somewhere just cause friends are going there. — Robert, Shorewood, WI

Choose the college that is right for you and nobody else. — K.T., Valdosta, GA

Don't focus on your first choice. Widen your eyes to keep your options open. — Christina, Pullman, WA

It's ok not to know what school you are going to right away, it takes time. Don't think you have to be the first application in because you don't — it's almost better that you are not. Don't overdo it. Apply to 4 or 5 and you will be great. Take advantage of your college counselors — they are there to help — and do a great job! — Paige, St. Louis, MO

Aim for the best fit. There is no "best college." — Elaine, Chapel Hill, NC

Apply to different types of schools; big, small, public, private — you never know what you may end up liking! — Dana, Minnetonka, MN

Wise, Funny or Both

If you have the ability to go to college at all, you ought to be proud of yourself, because it is an accomplishment, a privilege, and a gift. — Julia, Chicago IL

Get started early, work on volunteering, study for the SATs, and just get As in school! — J., Plainview NY

Learn as much as you can about the college application process. Things have changed so much from the time my parents went through this. — Meghan

Applying to college is no different than buying groceries. It involves shopping around and finding which college tastes the best. — N.A., Littleton, CO

Clam down to deal with it. — X., Fresh Meadows, NY

Pray. A lot. — Kirsten, Medford, OR

Whoever said that senior year is the easiest is a liar. — H., Fairfax, VA

As scary and expensive as college may seem, it will all be worth it in the end. — Madeline, NC

Everything you are doing right now will all be worth it. — Janeth, Los Angeles

Education is the best investment in ones' life. — Tirun, Tirapati AP (India)

College is worth it, no matter what. — Ashley, Tiburon, CA

The college application isn't the worst part. Waiting to hear back is! — Courtney, Ashburn, VA

It is a long process, but it will be worth it in the end when you receive your first acceptance letter. — Demetria, Ridgecrest, GA

Praise for The Princeton Review

The Princeton Review's website is extremely helpful in determining good colleges, majors, and careers to pursue — Erin, Alpharetta, GA

Use The Princeton Review and take their SAT courses. It has made the whole daunting college experience so much less stressful. Also, START EARLY! — Annie, Seattle, WA

Buy a Princeton Review book (I read The Best Colleges ) to help you decide where to apply. It helps so much determining what schools have a personal fit, which I think is more important than anything. — Kelly, Lees Summit, MO

Use Princeton Review SAT prep books and classes . They really do help to improve scores, and make the overall testing a much less stressful event. — K.M, Hillsborough, NJ

The Princeton Review and The College Board both provide excellent information on all schools. — Christian, Grapevine, TX

The Princeton Review was a lifesaver. — Chase, LaJolla, CA

Buy Princeton Review's "Best Colleges"! — Jacob, Rockville Center, NY

Don't let it overwhelm you. Purchase Princeton Review Books and refer to them at all times. — Arielle, Miramar, FL

The Princeton Review thanks all the students who shared these comments and tips and the thousands of others we heard from on our survey. Our customers are our best advisors and counselors!