Better Life- College
Life advice from someone who has a lot of life left to live.
I just need to take a breathe for a moment. I have been caught up in a whirlwind of activities since August 17. All of my college applications are finally in, allowing me to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Looking back on this long, crazy experience, I see that there are many things I did well, but also things I wished I had done a little differently. I know I’m not the only one who had to deal with college craziness, so I’m going to share some advice on how to continue through this process.
Start as early as possible. I don’t mean that as a freshman you have to know exactly what you want to do because odds are, you’ll end up changing your mind. You don’t have to know what you want to do with the rest of your life to prepare for college. You can begin studying for the ACT or SAT, or keeping your grades up. Something that I wish I would have done is keep a list of all of the activities I was in and awards I have won. I found it incredibly difficult to remember what I did four years ago, which sounds silly, but I’d like to see you try.
My second piece of advice is to stay on top of applications. If a school has an early action deadline, aim to get your crap together by then. Early action is non-binding, unlike early decision, and can sometimes result in more scholarship money. Some colleges also offer fee waivers if you get your application in by a certain date. The key here is organization. I made a spreadsheet to keep track of all dates, fees, and what extra materials I would need to complete the applications. You need to find your own method of organization, especially when it comes to all of the mail and emails. I recently deleted well over 100 emails from colleges and scholarship websites, and kept about the same amount as well. I got very overwhelmed by the volume of emails coming in and didn’t utilize the folders I had created to keep them in their rightful places. So, when you do create your organizational system, use it. Do not get buried in a pile of emails that you will need at least 48 hours to sort through.
Speaking of getting overwhelmed, it is surprisingly easy to feel like you’re drowning in the college search. Fear not! Besides staying organized, there are several things to do to keep your head above the water. Talking to your friends and family helps a lot. If they’ve experienced college already they can give you some really helpful advice on what to consider when picking the place that’s right for you. You can also ask the college staff if you’re confused on application requirements or the process in general. The admissions team is there to help you and are more than willing to help you out in any way. Not only is that their job, they are upbeat people who want you to apply to their school.
Teachers, especially your English teachers, are good resources as well. They are often willing to read your college essays and give you helpful feedback on what you can do to make it better. The more eyes you can get on that paper, the better. Every pair can give you a different perspective on what colleges may be looking for. Be sure to ask them if they would rather have a paper copy or a digital copy of your essay to make a few comments on, and give them enough time to look at it. They may not be able to look at it at the exact moment you hand it to them.
Finally, it is important to find a balance between your schoolwork and the college process. This is something I still struggle with- I have problems finding time to do my homework and write college essays and put together my portfolio and… well, you get the picture. My advice would be to set aside certain days to work on college stuff every week. Maybe you have very little going on on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Take time these days every week to get at least one thing done for college, no matter what happens that day. It doesn’t always have to be something long and time consuming. This way you’ll be able to get a little bit done at a consistent rate.
Senior year is as exciting as it is busy. I don’t think I’ve ever had more work to do in my life. But that’s okay. I look forward to my future, and you should, too. As Dr. Seuss once said, “You have brains in your head, and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”