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.
So the Common App came out a week ago. I’ve kind of been shirking my “college responsibilities” lately, despite the fact that this past week I went on college visits. I know, I know, I said in my last post not to put too much weight into college visits during the summer. Unfortunately, last week was probably the only work-light week I’ll have until…well, next summer really. Also it worked out well for my parents’ work schedules and, while we were not attending info sessions or terribly hot campus tours, it was a somewhat nice vacation.
Since there weren’t too many students or faculty on campus (except for at Dartmouth, which has a year-round academic system), and many buildings were under construction, I probably didn’t get as accurate an idea of each college’s atmosphere as I would’ve liked. However I definitely got something out of my visits. I originally expected all of the information sessions to be pretty much the same, with the all of the admissions deans and directors saying that they want well-rounded, high-achieving students who take advantage of opportunities provided to them. I instead was able to recognize distinct approaches that each college used to welcome prospective applicants to their campus and academic abodes. These differences were very enlightening; for example, a few schools emphasized the important of collaboration a lot more than others did; also, while a few schools highlighted the “well-rounded” aspect of their admitted students, others underscored the importance of maturity in their incoming class.
I was somewhat surprised at the subpar communication skills of admissions officers at schools that I’d believed put a lot of effort into marketing and outreach. I was particularly impressed with the performance given by a Brown admissions officer and graduate. I call it a performance because that is what it was. They didn’t seem superficial in anyway, were direct and straightforward, didn’t stutter or pause, and left me with almost no questions. They also knew how to incorporate humor into their spiels pretty naturally.
I was also able to approach a few students, and speak with students giving the campus tours, and ask about the learning environment and college life. I asked my tour guide at MIT if she ever slept during the school year, and I was pleased to hear her respond “Yes, I sleep! I’ve never pulled an all-nighter, you don’t need to”.
When I say I’ve been avoiding my responsibilities, I mean I haven’t written a single essay yet. I have a bunch of ideas, but fleshing them out on paper using coherent language will allow me to think deeper and develop my ideas more fully. Also, though I took notes during the info sessions and tours at the colleges I visited, I have yet to process the notes and characterize each school I visited. It’s important to be as familiar as I can with these schools so that I know which personal qualities to emphasize in my essays. For example, when I visited Olin, the students and admissions staff took great liberty explaining the extent of collaboration and project-based thinking that Olin embraces, so in my essays I would focus on instances both inside and outside of school that I’ve demonstrated skill in group work and leadership.
Thus, I really need to get cracking. The only problem is that I returned from GSET and college visits to a mountain of school and extracurricular work, both foreshadowing the woes of being a first-semester senior. Sigh. Anyway, one goal I did accomplish was creating that spreadsheet I was previously procrastinating on! It’s very similar to the spreadsheet of my fellow Admit/Deny blogger Katherine. It has a few of the same components, though mine as more factual information while Katherine’s has more qualitative aspects that are also really important. I made a Google Drive spreadsheet here if you want a copy. The yellow triangles in the upper-right corners of the first row boxes elaborate on the headings in each column.
I still have way too many schools on my list, so hopefully filling out this spreadsheet, as well as going through the notes I took during my visits (while simultaneously drafting essays) will help me narrow my list down. I also need to keep in mind what my top major choices are. Like I said before, I’m fairly certain that I want to major in science or engineering, but I also want the school I attend to have strong humanities and arts programs. Knowing this has allowed me to prioritize different fields and look at colleges whose specialties match my priorities.
But I don’t want to cross off any schools just yet. I’ve been thinking hard about which schools I want to apply “early” to, and which schools I want to apply “regular” to. It really annoys me that some schools have only Early Decision or only Single-choice Early Action. When college admissions rates for selective schools are at an all-time low, I don’t think students should have to limit their options to such a large extent. Another thing that frustrates me is the fact that a few of the schools I am applying to don’t use the Common App, and those that do have many supplement essays that haven’t even been released yet. I’m worried about how I’m going to manage my time and produce some decently-written essays by the time school starts. I guess we’ll find out!
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