Ah, application time. I remember it well. Fondly, even.
Well…I remember Common App application time well. State applications…not so much.
There was so much anticipation with the Common App. When it opened, I was at Dartmouth College for Dartmouth Bound, their fly-in program, and imagining attending school there, a full 2,000+ miles away from home. It was Ivy League. It was beautiful. It had a room in the library dedicated to Dr. Seuss. I had been in the clock tower! And then, as I sat in my cool dorm room, the Common App opened and it seemed like Dartmouth was only an essay and a click away.
I actually applied to a lot of schools, because I wanted to leave home for college like nobody’s business. Preferably, I would be out of state, at a small, liberal arts college where other students who loved learning and wanted to “change the world” would become my new best friends and help create a new world order (I’m kidding. Sort of.). I would prove to my parents that I could be trusted to take care of myself miles and miles away and they wouldn’t bat an eye when I embarked on a life that included tons of traveling (Note: this will never be the case. They’re parents. They worry.). This was what the Common App held for me. This was my future. And filling out everything on the application felt exciting, thrilling, right. It was sleek, it was decorated with tons of colleges around the country. It was big. The possibilities were endless.
This would be my college admissions experience: the anxiety of that perfect essay, the supplemental essays that I loathed and simultaneously appreciated, the debate of whether or not to go early decision–but this bubble was popped. Easily. By state applications.
My parents, while allowing me to dream of other schools, were also around to remind me that there were several state schools worth checking out. I grumbled, disagreed, rolled my eyes, but they were fairly adamant. And some of these schools were not on the Common App, but (since I’m from Texas) on the annoying, bumbling, ApplyTexas.
Man, I wanted to cry every time I had to log on to that site. I was already familiar with it because of the dual credit offered by our community college, but my own lack of preparation for that process had left me with some dark memories. ApplyTexas was about applying to schools in Texas – where I already was. There was Hometown State School. There was State School That Was Too Orange. There was State School That Was Too Close To Home. There was State School That Didn’t Stink But I Still Had to Use ApplyTexas So I Was Still Annoyed. And ApplyTexas–that website felt not sleek, not professional, not clear. Everything felt outdated. Slow. I was annoyed by everything about that website.
I wanted the Common App; I wanted the bright and shiny future promised by it! And it was the most agitating thing to have to switch between my future with the Common App and my future with ApplyTexas.
Because that is what it was about. My future, and how its possibilities changed with each of the different schools I was applying to. It was about how some of them fell into one general future and the others fell into another, and how I wanted one more than the other. Which is ridiculous and everyone else in my life knew it. Every state school that I was applying to was truly worth my consideration. Each one could give me the tools I needed to succeed, especially since I really wasn’t sure what I wanted anyway. There was nothing wrong with those schools. It’s true, some of them really were not right for me. For example, Orange State School and Hometown State School really were too orange and too close to home (and just in an environment I didn’t like). But there were others that were great and I was just being a brat, because I was actually throwing all of my college process application anxiety onto ApplyTexas. Common App was perfect because I was taking everything anxiety-related and associating it with ApplyTexas. It was irrational and kind of crazy, but it was what I was doing. I was scared that if I ended up at a state school, which is what I was deeming possible by logging onto ApplyTexas, I would lose out on a future that I had been dreaming of for years. That wasn’t the case.
I know now, as I sit in my dorm room wearing an A&M sweater, that the (state) school I’m attending was the best choice for me. I don’t know what kind of path I would have gone down somewhere else, but I do know that it probably would be different, and I want the one I’m on now.
So if you’re starting to get that little annoyed tic you get from the disorganization of state applications (let’s face it, some really are just annoying), or just the idea of staying in-state, look deeper. Look at the schools to which you’re applying. What about them would make attending there awesome? No school is perfect, and you may be glossing over issues you’ve seen in your research with other schools. Find what makes your state school really pop. It may be a wide variety of clubs and organizations (which can really make your experience there fantastic), or a specific devotion to a certain academic department you’re interested in. Or maybe they have the best football team and school spirit (here’s looking at you Aggieland!) and you’re excited to go somewhere with that much love for your school. There are so many aspects of a school that can make it all the more appealing to you. Trust me, give them a chance, and state applications won’t make you want to yank your hair out.