Feeling alone as you swim through the terrifying waters known as the college admission process? Have no fear! We have several seniors blogging about ups, downs, and random in-betweens of their college process for the next 12 months (from June 2015 to June 2016!). Sit back, relax, and get that “OMG I totally get you, bro” feeling. Information for how to contact a blogger will be at the bottom of his/her posts.
When this article is posted August will be over halfway over, which means the school year is coming really fast. Some of you might be starting school by then. The Common App has gone live, back to school commercials are rampaging through our TV screens, and I’m left thinking to myself: Where did the time go? We’re not counting down to the Common App anymore, we’re counting down to Early Decision/Early Action deadlines. That is a scary thought to think about.
If you’re like me, you might have felt an urge to finish those supplements as soon as possible, to hit “submit” months before the deadlines. You might feel like you are obligated to race with time, to keep up with its pace and beat it to the finish line. But this, is impossible. By lap one you would have to stop in order to stop panting so hard. Or worse, you could collapse into a pitiful ball of fatigue (given my track record, this would probably be me). In other words, this is not the time to sprint to get your applications done. Think of August as a light jog, a warmup before you really kick into gear come September and October.
If August is a warmup, what should we do? Think of making a Common App account as tying up your shoelaces. It takes about 10 seconds, and is absolutely necessary in order to continue on in most cases. Before a race, it is a good idea to stretch to avoid pulling muscles later. This is when you enter your general info into the Common App, such as where you live or what your parents do for a living. Again, pretty straightforward but crucial before submitting. Next, enter in your list of colleges into the system. You might find that one (or more) of your colleges don’t use the Common App. In this case, breathe. As I tell my campers, “It’s just a glitch”. Simply make accounts on their websites once you get the chance.
By now, we have started jogging, and it feels good. There is a nice, crisp breeze and you are not breathing heavily yet. You may be nervous for what is to come: there are many laps left, and you know there is that inevitable sprint to the finish at the end. But overall, you are feeling relaxed about the process. That is, until you see a giant hurdle in the horizon. This is (dun dun dun) THE COMMON APP ESSAY. If you are not hyperventilating right now, I am jealous because you are either Lolo Jones or not human. But in all seriousness, you will find that the huge omgithinkimgoingtodie Common App Essay (I put capitals for a reason) is not as bad once you start it, just like jumping over that large hurdle isn’t as hard once you have gathered some momentum.
My first piece of advice is to not worry about choosing the perfect topic or the perfect prompt. It is impossible. It’s actually easier to go through each prompt and simply bullet note answers and then choose one that reveals who you are in the most genuine and authentic way possible. Sometimes a topic will literally jump out to you from a little corner in your brain and say, “pick me!” (this happened to me). Then it is easiest to choose the prompt that is most suitable for your topic instead of the other way around. Once you have gotten this far, it’s time to write! I know, easier said then done. But I have found that if you sit down and write 650 words all at once it is one of the best ways to craft your “voice”; you shouldn’t feel that you are trying too hard, it should just happen. The long Starbucks sessions (I have a problem, I know) with my best friends just sitting down and not leaving until I have reached the maximum word count is when I feel I have written most like myself. So find your happy place, and write write write!
On another note, It’s okay if you hate your first draft. I hated mine, it happens. You might trip over the hurdle the first time and fall on your face, and that is fine too… great even! Hey, the first draft is called rough for a reason. My English teacher taught me to go line by line and fix/delete what I didn’t like in order to get the piece that I ultimately wanted. And remember, it is still August. We have time. You will finish this essay to the best of your ability and hit submit and will be fine. I promise.
This huge racetrack analogy applies not just in college applications, but in life. Enjoy these last days of Summer, and cherish the time you have with your friends and family. It’s dangerous to always tilt your head towards the horizon and lose sight of where you are in the moment. You could trip on a hurdle without even noticing it if you are so worried about the sprint at the end. Be grateful for this jog while it lasts.