It’s almost November first. For most people, all that means is that Halloween is over and it’s time to start planning Thanksgiving dinner, but for those currently ensnared in the college admissions process this day often means much more. It’s the early decision/early action deadline for many universities, including the Ivy League schools, and it’s sometimes the deadline to apply for scholarships at institutions with rolling admissions. The week leading up to the deadline is a frenzied blur of reworking essays, recording extracurricular activities, and submitting final test scores. A year ago, I was terrified of November first and what it symbolized to me: the beginning of a long, anxiety-ridden six weeks before I found out if I got into my dream school. I know what it feels like to not be able to do anything after clicking the “apply” button. But as someone who got through that stressful period of my life, I have a few tips for the class of 2017.
1. Be yourself on the application.
Don’t lie or have someone write your essays for you. Schools want to be able to see who you are through the way you present yourself on paper, especially if you’re in an area of the country where your personality can’t shine through in an admissions interview. Universities are looking for a match in the same way students are; they want people who will both fit in with the student population and add something to it. If the school you want to attend doesn’t choose you based on an honest representation of yourself, you probably wouldn’t be happy there anyway.
2. If you don't get in, it's OK.
It’s hard to see at the time, but life will go on. Rejection is one of the hardest things to overcome for many high school students, especially if they were invested in a school that didn’t admit them. But if you don’t get in, there’s probably a better place for you. It’s okay to be upset about it for a bit, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t speak to your value as a person or a student. Don’t internalize the rejection; you and the school weren’t a perfect match, and that’s okay. Everything works out in the end, even if it’s hard to see it from the beginning.
3. Make the decision that makes the most sense for you.
If everyone from your school goes to one university and you don’t want to go there, don’t attend just because everyone else is doing it. If the school you were looking at isn’t interesting to you anymore or if you can’t imagine calling it home, find the place that you’d be proud to attend because you love it so much. There are so many factors that go into choosing a school, so many things that can make or break a decision. The fear of making the wrong choice is often what holds us back. Take the time to plan out what your life will actually look like at each school––what classes you’ll take, what internship/job opportunities are available to you, how good that school is at your particular field, how that school will prepare and/or back you if you want to pursue postgraduate degrees, etc. All institutions are different. Knowing the reality of attending each one can help you identify the experience that most fits your lifestyle and your interests.
It's hard not to stress out about the admission process because it literally will change your life. But try to slow down and remember that everything will be okay. Life is about the unknowns and the periods of questioning. Without them, we might never discover who we are and what we really want from life.