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 2014 to June 2015!). 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.
Within the first 4 days of October, I have already submitted 1 college application and 3 scholarship applications. I have also attended 1 leadership symposium and 1 college visit session in my high school. However, the work never ends. There’s always something around the corner–a multivariable calculus midterm, a Moby-Dick essay, or even just a simple social outing–all of these take effort and time that I cannot afford to spare. I don’t think I ever quite understood how difficult senior year would be until I am living it.
So, you may ask, what advice would you give to others going through similar situations? There’s several points that I would like to address here, but keep in mind that what works for me might possibly not work well for you at all. Take everything I type with a grain of salt.
Don’t agonize over the application too early in the season. Before the Common App came out on August 1st, I would always stay up and mull over the what-ifs and how-tos until late at night. That’s useless. Wasting time by just staring at the screen at an unactivated application is completely unproductive. Work on an application that is open to you right now. Check back when you can access the application and then work on that. There are some special programs that aren’t even open for applications yet (such as Northwestern’s HPME program) so there’s no point getting worked up on that.
Ask your recommenders for letters ASAP. If you haven’t ask your recommenders yet, plan to do so tomorrow, or at least three weeks well in advance of the application deadline. There’s two scholarships that I didn’t find out until a week prior to the deadline, and it’s very fortunate that my recommenders got it in in time. Bond with your teachers, drop by their classrooms during lunch time, they’d appreciate that. Don’t do it just for recommendations, do it because these teachers are interesting people and there’s much that they know and experienced that you don’t. Go to their classrooms; listen, learn, and grow.
Self discipline. I am not going to pretend that I am particularly good at this–I’m not. I love to sleep, and that pretty much takes up all my precious time. You know that frustrating moment when you just keep snoozing your alarm on a weekend morning and thus don’t get anything done? I know that all too well. This is a difficult skill to develop, and I understand that. I think one thing we can do is to reward ourselves in another way when we manage to control ourselves (whether it’s on sleep, on food, or on not reading just one more chapter of that really interesting book). This way, we would be better motivated to get stuff done.
Plan accordingly. So, you have a bio paper, an english paper, and a midterm on the same day? Get those two papers done at least two days before so you can study the night before the exam. Have some foresight. Get a planner–you school should already be providing one; if not, get one now. Write out your big goals and small goals of the week, then complete them accordingly. Make sure that you don’t get overwhelmed unexpectedly so you can complete each task with your best.
Write your resume, or at least compose a comprehensive list of your activities. Every (or nearly every) college and scholarship application require you to list your top 3, top 5, top 10, or all of your significant extracurricular activities or experiences. Being prepared can save you much trouble in the future, since the format for filling in these activities are pretty standard all around. Composing a resume (templates can be found in Microsoft Word, online, pretty much anywhere) can help you greatly in this prospect. It also makes it easier for you if you are interested in a part-time job. Some colleges and scholarships may just ask you to upload a copy of your resume as a part of the application process as well.
Reuse your essays. You have probably noticed it already, but many prompts are so similar that you can reuse your essay for an x amount of times. It is highly encouraged to save your essays for this particular purpose as it will save you a lot of time down the road. The only exception is the “Why xx college?” essays–DO NOT REUSE THOSE. Each college specific essay should be tailored to that college; these essays should demonstrate your interest, not your copy-and-paste skills.
If you work better under pressure, last minute is not necessarily the worse thing out there. This is a very personalized tip, and I do realize that some people, unlike me, may work better with things spread out over the course of a couple days or weeks. I work differently. I thrive under pressure: admittedly, some of my best work come from these ‘crunch sessions’. My best English essay thus far was completed the morning of (the other essays, written over the span of a couple days, fell much under expectations). That science fair that I won in ninth grade? Finished at four in the morning. While it is not advisable, the adrenaline and the urgency I draw from these situations make me concentrated enough to create what I must in a short span of time. Given my busy schedule, it may be the only way that things would work out smoothly for me. Of course, I still make sure that I don’t have important events the next day and that my performance on other projects will not be affected before making the decision to work until ‘the last minute’. This is not really procrastination as much as racing against time to get everything done… Just in time.
I am sure that many of you will disagree at least something that I said here, but hey, everyone has their own way to go about succeeding in senior year, right? There’s only so much time everyday (and I refuse to sleep less than 7 hours a night; especially since I’m not allowed to drink anything with caffeine) and we have to somehow manage to finish everything that we’re supposed to while maintaining physically and mentally health. The winner is really the one who can manage everything and anything all at once. So, take these thoughts, find out a way of organization that work out best for you, and go be that winner!
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