I am not a procrastinator. Last year, I started every paper as soon as it was assigned. I got all my assignments done earlier enough to take them to at least two office hours. I never waited until the last minute to take a test. I pulled all-nighters weeks before something was due just to get it out of the way and give myself enough time to perfect it. So why is it that it’s the middle of December, and I don’t even have my Common App transfer essay complete?
The transfer application process is hard. A lot of the things that were done automatically online as a first-year applicant have to be done by hand now. I have to email each individual college that I’m applying to for fee waivers because as a transfer applicant, I don’t have a counselor who can just check a little box for me. I have to submit transcript request forms for every school to both my high school and my college. To top it all off, one of the schools I am applying to wants to see a graded essay from my first year of university complete with professor feedback. The thing is, the only paper I still have access to that fits those parameters is in Spanish. I’m a little overwhelmed.
It’s not like I haven’t started anything yet- I technically have my Common App essay written, it’s just 200 words over the limit. I’ve done loads of research on the schools I’m applying to and started sending those pesky fee waiver requests. I’ve got my letters of recommendation all lined up and I’ve written the first sentence of a bunch of school specific essays. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself because I am also doing fifty-plus hours a week of service and also upholding all of my semi-adult responsibilities, but I am surprised that I’m not further along by now.
When I was applying to college as a senior in high school, I was very annoyed by the “Why?” essay question that colleges seem to love. I didn’t really care about most of the places I was applying, and the honest answer to “Why?” was because they were located somewhere very different from where I grew up and I thought they would give me a bunch of financial aid. This second time around, I’m much more aware of the importance of understanding a school’s culture and vibe before I decide to apply to it. I know what I want in a school, and the places I’m applying reflect my needs. However, I’m still having one heck of a time articulating why I want to attend these schools. My reasons are mostly personal- I can see myself growing and exploring and probably not being miserable at these places. They have programs that fit my interests. In my opinion, those are valid reasons, but it’s hard to write a dynamic and intriguing essay that explains these things in under 250 words. I’d much rather talk about my conceptualization of sustainability or how I want to open a pie shop someday.
I am an interesting person. I have interesting thoughts, I’ve done a lot of cool things. I know that I’d be a great contribution to any college campus, but the idea of having to essentially audition myself to a dozen schools on top of all the paperwork that needs to get done is exhausting. It’s also scary to think that all of this hard work could not pay off. There is so little data about transfer admissions, especially compared to what’s available for first-year applicants, that I feel like I’m going into it blind. Two years ago I obsessively poured over College Confidential threads and Parchment.com, analyzing my chances of getting into all my favorite schools. I can’t do that now, which is a little stressful, but also a blessing because I don’t really have time to do that anyways (does anyone really?).
The transfer process isn’t as miserable as I’ve probably made it sound. As I’ve been researching the schools I’m interested in, my passion for education and college has been reignited. Six months ago, I sometimes wondered if I was even made to go to university, but now I’m confident that I can find somewhere with the right balance of intellect, social life, and access to the wider world. I’m so thankful that I have the opportunity to redo my application process. I feel like I never put my best foot forward the first time around. Now I’m a little bit older, a lot more mature, and my resume is a lot longer (and more exciting, to be totally honest). Plus I’ve been through this before- I know how not to write my essays and I know not to apply to schools at random.
So I haven’t finished anything yet. I haven’t started a lot of things yet either. But I’ll get there because I’m excited. I’m already so stoked about getting back into the classroom next year. I actually miss studying in the library and writing papers. This is a new path, but in many ways it’s familiar. It’s validated the decision I made to spend a year away from formal education and gives me something to work towards. It’s tough. It’s a bit of a headache, and it is procrastination-inducing, but it’s absolutely not impossible.