To My Juniors Applying To College

To My Juniors Applying To College

A little help from others can be a great blessing.

It's that time of year again. In the past few weeks, I've started to receive an increasing number of questions about university applications. My precious about-to-be seniors have all grown up and are now asking me for essay edits, my college application experience and ways to organize their arrays of awards in the CommonApp. But there's only so much wishy-washy advice I can give before feeling pressured to come out with the unflattering truth: I honestly had no idea what I was doing.

(Actual picture of me trying to impress the admissions committee.)

I had a lot of my classmates applying to the same schools I was, each of them more qualified than the next to get in. This was a huge blow to my confidence. The result of this was a lot of worried staring at the CommonApp awards page where I had left most of the fields blank while my friends debated which 10 out of their 1 million awards to send in. I also didn't have any research experience, well-earned national titles or fantastic essay writing skills. Really, all I had was a mousy art portfolio and myself.

If you're in a similar boat, I'm here to help. Here is my attempt at advice on how to make college application season not so terrible a time.

1. Really look in a mirror

College applications were some nirvanic journey of self-discovery for me. Because I didn't have many awards and titles to back me up, I really had to spend a lot of time looking for the qualities within myself that I wanted to present in an application. After a few long weeks of brainstorming, I made sure to write as candidly as I could with an earnest emphasis on things I was working on accomplishing instead of what I had already done.

2. Don't just apply to Harvard

Don't get me wrong, you can just apply to Harvard–it's a great school. What I mean is don't just apply because it's a great school. What's more important than going to a good institution is going to an institution that suits you. Perhaps one school you're considering is ranked higher for the field you want to pursue, but it's focused heavily on sending students to graduate school. If you're looking for work opportunities, maybe a career-oriented program will suit you better. (I'm looking at all of you deciding between U of T and Waterloo.) The school's social scene, extracurricular life and surroundings should also factor in to your decision. Before you decide to apply to a school, you should have a good understanding of why you want to study there.

3. Exercise, eat and sleep

You'll have IA results coming your way, your last chances at any SAT tests you still want to write and a sudden increase in the English commentaries you have to fumble your way through. You'll also start to feel not too great about putting off that Extended Essay. When all seems lost, it's important to remember to exercise, eat and sleep regularly. Is an extra 2 percent on a assignment that's not weighted anything in the scope of IB exams really worth feeling like crap for the next few days? The answer should be no. Stay hydrated and well-rested, and the whole application process will go by a whole lot smoother.

And never forget that you have a network of friends to reach out to if you need any help. In the words of Uncle Iroh, "While it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing."

Good luck, kiddos, and may the force be ever with you.

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10 Things I Learned When My Best Friend Got Pregnant In High School

In this world where you can be anything: be a friend (and be a good one).

Life: full of amazing, unforeseen circumstances. How you roll with the punches only reveals your strength.
True friends are like diamonds: bright, beautiful, valuable, and always in style." -Nicole Richie

I remember when I first heard the big news. I didn't want to believe it. My heart dropped. I was worried for you. What would happen? How would you get through this? Nothing we knew would ever be the same. Our world was about to change forever. I recalled the verse Isaiah 41:10, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you." I knew God was with you and would always be. I knew God needed me to be here for you, no matter what.

Turns out, you had this all in the bag. You handled everything with grace and dignity. You were strong even on your hardest days. You were overwhelmed with faith and you inspired me with your perseverance through the hardest times. I could not be more proud of who you became because of the cards you were dealt.

To Meaghan: I love you. I'm always here, no matter where. Hudson is so lucky to have you.

Here's what I learned from you and your sweet baby boy:

1. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT the end of the world

Start making plans for the future. Pick out clothes, decorations, and toys. Help with all the madness and preparation. She would do the same for you. Plus, 9 p.m. runs to Toys-R-Us just to buy the baby some socks (because you do not know the gender yet) is always a good idea. You have to focus on the big picture. Life doesn't stop even when you want to.

2. No matter how much you want to freak out, remain calm

Getting unexpected news is never easy to hear. If needed, cry. Cry until you cannot anymore. Then, get up and be strong, she needs you. Be flexible (You want to come over to hang out? Right now? No, I'm not in the middle of ten thousand things, come on over). Be available (yes, even for her 3 a.m. insomnia calls just to see "what's up?") "Meaghan, why are you even awake right now?"

3. Radiate positivity. Always. 

This is an emotional time. The LAST thing she needs is someone bringing her down. "No, honey, you're glowing!" "You do not look fat in that bikini!!" "You are rocking that baby bump!" "Oh, that's your the third day in a row you're eating a Sonic burger for lunch? You go girl!"

4. Be ready for all the times: happy, confusing, stressful, sad, (but mostly) exciting

Mixed emotions are so hard, but look for the silver lining. With your support, she will be strong.

"Who knew picking out the brand of diapers to buy was so stressful?"

5. This world is a scary place. You never want to be all alone, so don't be. 

Like the song says, we, really do, all need someone to lean on. Just being there for someone goes a long way. "Meaghan what the heck are you doing in MY bed? How long have you been here?"

6. Lean on God. His plan is greater than we could ever imagine. 

When you don't know where to go, or who to turn to, pray! Pray for the burdens you feel. Pray for the future. Pray for patience. Pray for the ability to not grow weary. Pray for a heart of compassion. Pray. Pray. Pray.

7. Something we never knew we needed. 

Some of the best things in life are things we never knew we needed. Who knows where we would be without this sweet face?

"Hudson say Lib. Libby. L-- Come ON!" "CAT!" "Okay, that works too."

8. "Mother knows best" accurate, whether you believe it or not

Turns out, seventeen-year-olds don't know how to plan baby showers. Our moms have been there, done that. They want to be involved just as much as we do, so let them! Listen to their guidance. After all, they're professionals.

9. There will *almost always* be a "better way" of doing something...but, be a cheerleader, not a critic 

This is something many people struggle with in general, but it is not your DNA, it is not your place to be a critic. Let her raise her own baby. You are there to be a friend, not a mentor. ****Unless she's about to name the baby something absolutely terrible -- for the love of that baby, don't let her name that kid something everyone hates.

10.  At the end of the day, it's not what you have or what you know; rather, it is all about who you love and those who love you

Life has adapted, but for the better. We grew up, learned, and became stronger. All the while, we stayed friends every step of the way. We still have the same fun and most definitely, the same laughs.

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The Art Of Loving What We Can’t Have

We really do love to break our own hearts, don't we?


I'll never forget the first time I looked in the mirror with fire in my lungs begging myself to stop the insanity that is loving things that don't love me. When I choose to love, I do so selflessly. I have never loved to be loved in return. I'm sure you can see where this becomes problematic…

Most of us are selfish. We don't just love selfishly, but our entire beings are riddled with selfishness. It's like a plague. Humanity by nature is so self-minded that they can't even begin to imagine the pain they are capable of causing. If we can't have something, we chose not to love it. We choose to turn our backs and be cold. We do so for selfish reasons. The fear of unrequited love, the fear of pain, the fear of transparency; they are crippling.

Did you ever think that maybe simply not being able to have something, doesn't mean it didn't love you back? Did your mother ever tell you that you can't always have everything you want? Did she lead you to believe this meant she loved you less?

I broke my own heart in two the night I had to let the caterpillar-turned-butterfly leave and be free. I watched it grow, I provided it with what it needed, but yet it still left. Five years old and I could not breathe because the pain from loving this small creature had closed off my throat in flames of knowledge I would come to discover in the future. I didn't stop loving it so I would hurt less, I loved it through the pain because everything on this earth deserves to be loved. Can you imagine what a human could do to me?

I broke my heart again when the man I loved couldn't stay. Not because he didn't want to, but because he had to, as life goes. There was no malice, there was no falling out, there was only grief. Grief for what I loved, and would still love, even when it was gone.

Loving is meant to be selfless, but loving one who does not love you back may be the most selfless thing on this earth. I went back to the mirror, fire in my lungs—this time I let the tears roll, quietly and softly down my face, onto my neck, feeling the fire just beneath the skin. I let myself feel my heartbreak. I did not scream, I did not sob, I simply felt what I felt.

I broke my own heart, but I took the pain because I would rather love what does not love me than never know love at all. What if they do love you back? My answer is simple; if you have loved, who loves you back matters little. You will always be loved in return—everyone is loved by someone. Everyone deserves this.

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