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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.

I have a secret: I love to fill out applications. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s the hope that I’ll get good news in return for repeatedly typing in my name, phone number, address, test scores, hobbies, and favorite childhood pet for the ten thousandth time. Maybe it’s because I secretly long to write them and right now, I’m gathering secrets for the perfect one. Anyway, on August 1st – Common App Day – I was excited. I was ready. Or so I thought.

Despite my love for applications, the Common App still loomed over me like a mythical dragon. I’d polished my sword, checked my shields, and started down the path to the lair, even though my heart beat like a terrified rabbit’s.

Surprisingly, the Common App wasn’t as messy as I thought it would be. It was actually pretty – you guessed it – fun. Don’t sleep on getting a head start, though. Get the simple part out of the way while you have plenty of time instead of waiting until those nail biting moments before the deadline. It’s as simple as completing a take home quiz that’s all about you. That should be an easy task, since most of us have lived with ourselves for about seventeen or eighteen years.

Nonetheless, I made a cheat sheet: a Word document filled with my extracurriculars, test scores and dates, high school code, counselor contact info, etc. It makes the job easier to have most of that information in one place. Plus, it’s a handy sheet to have in case something doesn’t save or you later plan on applying for scholarships. In addition to the test, there’s a pop quiz somewhere in there on your parents and your siblings, but that shouldn’t be too difficult either.

Many of my friends still speak of the Common App in hushed tones, but there’s no need. Through much investigation, I’ve discovered that the part of the Common App everyone actually fears is the essay. In fact, I promised myself this summer that between napping and reading, I’d have more than enough time to write my Great American Essay(s). Then I parked my metaphorical bus firmly in Procrastination Station and binge-watched Supernatural.

Now I’m battling the third week of school and trying to squeeze time in to write a thousand and one essays and supplements. But it’s okay! Learn from my mistakes. (Are you noticing a theme here?) If you’re still experiencing summer, write your essays. At least do a little brainstorming before school starts. If you’re stuck in my position (busy and essay-less), take a deep breath. It’s still August, which means you have a few months to spare, even if you’re applying early decision. Don’t think of the application as a huge hurdle you have to jump; visualize a series of small, manageable hurdles instead. Complete the Common Application in chunks.

I know this it’s easier to make a detailed plan for the future and file it away for “someday”, but someday rarely comes. After all, I had a strategy in place. I’m a tad biased, but it still looks pretty reasonable. So why does my desk sport a few, blank sheets of paper instead of a stack of polished essays? It’s because I’m terrified. I’ve finished the quantifiable part. My name, test scores, date of birth, and extracurriculars probably won’t change before I submit my application.  The next part requires that I pour a tiny bit of my soul – a bit of what makes me me– into my application. I’m afraid that when I start my essays, instead of discovering my purpose in life or realizing a new truth about myself, I’ll find out that I have about as much soul as a mashed banana. The saddest part is that I don’t even like bananas.

Again, it’s a reasonable fear. When was the last time any of us faced a decision that was as huge as deciding where to spend the next four years of our lives? Though it’s okay to feel fear, we shouldn’t let that fear paralyze us. Tonight, I feel the stirrings of inspiration for an essay supplement, but we can’t always wait to feel inspired either. Don’t just write when you feel a stroke of genius. Write for a specified amount of time every day, no matter what. Eventually, you’ll find a diamond in the rough. Also, make sure you save everything you write. Many college and scholarship essay prompts are similar, so you might be able to modify an essay or fragment you wrote for something else.

It’s hard to believe it’s finally here. Honestly, I expected a little more confetti, but I’ll take prolonged essay writing instead. Maybe the confetti comes closer to the end when we’re reveling in our acceptances and savoring our shiny new diplomas. Nonetheless, remember to have fun during the admissions process. It shouldn’t be all work and no play. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some applications to fill out.

Want to get in touch with Arlena? Fill out our Contact form, and she’ll write you back ASAP!



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