As it is now the end of January, I have finally finished all of my college apps (though the same can not be said about all the extra documents one must send after the initial application has been sent). With this said, I wanted to write a bit about what the process was like for me, and how I think it has helped my overall study habits.
I started the college process quite late; by the time late October rolled around last year I still had no definite college list. This confusion lasted well into December, and I only became aware of where I really aspired to go once I started writing all my essays.
With my essays, I found them quite relaxing; when I would get stressed about studying the process of DNA translation, I would turn to some obscure essay prompt I was in the process of outlining to give me an escape from my school studies. If you have gone through the college process or are in the process now, you know that the essays are the most time-consuming part. It is an odd feeling knowing that whatever you write in about 600 words or less will be sent to a college in order for them to understand who you are.
For my main common application essay, it took a solid ten drafts to get to the point where I was pleased with it, and by the time I sent it to my first college, I knew I was sending something that I was proud of. For the smaller, supplemental essays, they allowed my mind to drift to thoughts I haven’t been able to think about for a long time, as I have been so absorbed in my writings for school.
I was able to reflect on who I am, and I why I am this way. I wrote about how my draw to nature has kept me steady as I travel the world, and how the past year has changed my entire life for the better. The prompts prompted (no pun intended) me to look at my past experiences with wonder and intrigue and to see the beauty in seemingly small moments.
I wrote an entire supplemental essay about how I got lost my first week in Lithuania without a phone in the dead of winter; allowing me to learn that I should have faith in myself and my capabilities.
Writing all these essay’s improved how I write and think in many of my classes, but mostly English. It gave me much-needed practice in critical thinking and how to express my thoughts fluidly.
The rest of the application process was quite mundane, but after surviving my holiday break which consisted of sending in six applications in the course of three days, I created a list of things I wish I had known before entering the college application world.
- If you can apply early action, do. Early action is non-binding, meaning that if you get accepted to the college, you don’t have to go. You simply send your application earlier (usually in November) and get a decision faster. This is beneficial for a number of reasons, one being that you will be thankful to get decision letters in January or February as opposed to April. It also allows you to have a sort of divider date between all your college applications. In other words, if you apply early action to five schools (like me), that allows you to spend more time on the regular decision applications.
- Don’t overanalyze your essays. This is one thing I wish I would’ve done myself. Yes, it is important to have people read your essays for grammar, fluency and for some comments on what to change. However, at a certain point, you must decide when your essay has gone under enough scrutiny. If you are proud of it, then it is done. Letting numerous people read it is all good and well, but you run the risk of losing your voice, which is the key part of the essay.
- The topic doesn’t matter, you do. Similar to my previous point, the most important part of your essay is you. It doesn’t matter if you write about your journey to India or your morning walk with your dog, what matters is your perspective on what you write about, and how it defines who you are. Choose something you are passionate about, not something you feel you have to write about.
I am no expert in the college application area, but I do think these tips are helpful in organizing and in staying true to who you are. I tried to look at the entire process as a way for me to explore schools as well as myself in order to find a school that matched my identity. As the IB courses come to an end, I hope to spend more time on the blog, as I have seen from this entire process how much I enjoy creative writing.