Long nights spent studying and endless days partaking in clubs, sports, volunteering and working — the race is tiring. But the grand prize keeps everyone going: admission into a top college.

The recipe for college admissions is pretty straightforward: High GPA and SAT/ACT Scores, multiple extracurriculars, and the perfect college essay.

This all seems relatively simple until you are a junior facing the pressures of the upcoming year. With multiple APs, extracurriculars and standardized testing, it is hard to live a healthy and balanced life. We get so focused and caught up with trying to do everything and get everything right, we sometimes lose sight of the long run.

As a current senior in high school, I just recently went through the draining college application process and I can first hand testify to the stresses juniors face. Reflecting back, I wanted to share my takeaways from this entire process.

1. Participate in extracurriculars that accurately reflect what you are passionate about

People, including myself, often make the mistake of trying to join as many clubs as possible to impress colleges. However, rather than trying to show how “well rounded” you are by taking a bunch of unrelated extracurriculars, it is better to join clubs/partake in activities that you enjoy. It is better to show a theme that reflects your passions to colleges. They want to get to know you, not a fake person who you think they would like. It is better to be focused and good at one thing rather than doing everything averagely.

2. Select your classes carefully

You don’t want to make the mistake of overloading yourself with AP or honors classes. Although you may think that would look good on your college application, it may backfire. Overloading yourself with hard classes will prevent you from spending the appropriate time needed for each class potentially causing you to not perform the best you can. Try to find a good balance of rigorous and relatively easier classes. Taking 3 APs and having a 3.9 GPA is better than taking 7 APs and having a 3.2 GPA.

3. Take time for yourself

Although this is hard with everything that needs to be done, you need time for yourself so you don’t get burnt out. Give yourself some time to breathe and do things for your pleasure. College is going to get much harder, so enjoy high school to the fullest.

4. Write your college essay about what YOU want and are passionate about and don’t be disheartened if a topic doesn’t come to you soon

College essays are the chance for colleges to hear what you have to say. Don’t write about what you think colleges want to see. Trust me, you will enjoy the entire college app process much more if you write what you enjoy. It took me 15 drafts (in which I changed my topic twice) to write a common app essay which I liked and which I felt accurately reflected who I was. Enjoy the process, as painful as it is because it helps you become a significantly better writer. Once you finish your apps, you are done. It’ll all be worth it when you receive your first college acceptance.

5. This process will come with many rejections. It is OK

As perfect as your grades, SAT/ACT score, or essay may be, you are never guaranteed acceptance into a college. You can never predict who a college “wants”. I know people who have gotten into the top universities in America but were rejected or waitlisted from their safety schools. It just means that there is a better college more fit for you out there. Don’t worry, everything will work out in the long run.

I will be joining Rutgers in the Fall of 2018 and am very excited. Before committing I was between the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Toronto. I talked to multiple people from all three of these universities before coming to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter where you go for your undergraduate degree. What matters is what you make of the university and the connections you build there. I am joining Rutgers as an intended Psychology major on the Premed Track. The reasons I chose Rutgers were that it is close to home, I get in-state tuition, and it is one of the best premed colleges.

Good luck to everyone who is starting their college application process! It will all work out.