Friday, November 14, 2014

Going to College Part 1: Surviving College App Season

I was watching the Today Show (I told you I'm a 50-year-old woman on the inside) the other day and Hoda and Kathie-Lee were interviewing a few admissions officers. I know it was supposed to be informative, but dayum, it was down right pissing me off.

The problem with the college admissions process is that there is a hellova lot nepotism and cheating going on. It's not fair. When I was a senior in high school and I was applying to colleges, I was so naive about the whole process. I had been dreaming about going to an Ivy since I was 10-years-old. I remember sending an email to my cousin when I was 9 or 10 asking if I should go to Stanford or Harvard. Ha! My brother is a senior in high school this year, and while he's definitely not applying to any Ivy's, I know just how stressful of a time it can be. I feel like so many people are on the cusp of a mini-mental breakdown, but they have to keep it inside because they feel like no one else can relate. High school is already super stressful. Add the college application process on top of it, and you've got one stressed person!

I've put this series together in the hope it might help some of you get through one of the most stressful parts of your lives. I was lucky because I had a buddy that was going through the same kind of stress (we even applied to a bunch of the same schools!) so I didn't feel like I was in the whole process by myself. Not everyone is so lucky.

Here's my go-to guide for applying to college in the least-stressful way possible! It can be done without a mental breakdown! I promise!

1. Create your "list"

I'm sure you've already done this if you're applying to college. If you already have, keep reading whilst I elaborate. If you haven't made your list of colleges you're going to apply to yet, holy canoli child, get to it! It's November and some due dates for apps have already passed. Most of them are January 1st or so. Don't freak out too much if you haven't, though. Do some research and create a list. DO IT NOW. Anyways, if you have, here's my advice: add three more schools to your list. Nothing is worse than being rejected from almost all of your choices (been there, done that!). Add one of each to your list: a reach, a match, and a safety. A reach school is a gamble, but having more reach schools increase your chances of getting into one of them. Match schools are less of a gamble. I got rejected from one of my best matches (like, what??). If all else fails, your safety will send you an acceptance. Even if you don't really think you'll go there, it's sooooo nice to have the option. It makes you feel less screwed over by the college process, I think. And who knows? You may go look at the campus and decide you actually really like the school. Besides, at the end of the day, it's just undergraduate. People care more about graduate and beyond, if that's the route you decide to take.

2. Keep on top of your due dates

I seriously cannot stress this enough. DO NOT wait until winter break to get started on those damn essays. You'll inevitably run into writers' block somewhere along the way and freak out because there's a deadline approaching and go to your room and cry from all of the stress. Don't do that. Besides, when you're stressed, your essay quality declines. Essays are so important because they give admissions a look into who you really are as a person. Start now if you haven't already. Work on the weekends. Do homework on Saturday, applications on Sunday. No rest for the wicked, eh?

3. Don't B.S. your essays

Seriously. Nothing is worse than having an essay that is sooooo clearly over-editted or completely fake. The best college essays are the ones that have your voice shine through. Are you a sarcastic person? Put some sarcasm in your essay. Have a way with puns? Put that in! Some essays are a little more serious, yes, but you can still let your voice in. That leads to another suggestion: don't let too many people edit your essays. You lose your voice everytime someone puts some "input" into your essay. Some input is good, yes, but beware of over-editted essays. Admissions officers care about what you have to say; not your parents. If the essay prompt is about something silly and ridiculous and in no way relates to your life, DO NOT B.S. it. Dig deep. Ask your parents for inspiration. They can tell when you're not being genuine and it affects your application. A lot. I know it sucks to work your behind off on some silly essay that practically determines your future when you don't even know if you'll get into that school or not. But, we've all been there. It doesn't seem fair at all, really. But you can do it. Pretend you're that little engine that could. "Yes, I can... Yes, I can.... Yes, I can..." Before you know it, you'll be done with them all, and you can sit back and (kind of) relax until decisions.

4. Send your transcripts, test scores, etc. EARLY

Stuff comes up. Schools sometimes don't get the things you send them. This happened to me with the University of Michigan and thank goodness they were kind enough to let me send them again after the due date had passed. Most schools aren't so kind. They have 20,000 + applications to get through and let me tell you -- you ain't a priority. One less application to go over. SEND THEM NOW. Okay? Okay. 

5. Don't get behind in school

College applications take up a ton of time. It's ridiculous. But don't slack off in school. Make sure you do your schoolwork first, then work on your application. If you start early enough, you can work a little bit at a time on them. You won't be stressed when the due date is in two days and you just have the basic information filled in. Easier said than done, obviously, but this is probably my most helpful advice. My grades first semester of senior year suffered from stress and too much work to do. I had a pretty bad concussion, too, which really sucked. Worst time possible for that to happen, but hey, it worked out alright for me. But seriously, guys. Keep on top of your schoolwork and don't let the senioritis get to you. It's real, I can assure you (I'm in college and I still think my senioritis never actually went away to a certain extent). Just don't let it get the best of you. Stay motivated. Your future matters more than going out with friends.

6. Take a mini vacation

Book a hotel room for a night. Don't bring any homework. Shut off your phone. Take your friend or your sister or your mom or whatever. It's important to give your mind a break from the stress of this semester. When you get back to reality, you'll feel refreshed, and have a better grip on how to deal with your to-do list. 

College app season sucks. A lot. It's quite possibly one of the most stressful things that you'll ever have to go through. There's nothing you can do to get rid of the stress, but there are ways that you can make it less of an impact on your everyday life. It's only one semester. It'll be over with in a blink. You can do it. I know you can.

Best of luck.

Any advice for dealing with College App Season?

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