After thirteen years of routinely attending school and obsessing over their GPA, students in the class of 2019 have seen both the crushing words of rejection and euphoria-causing words of miraculous acceptance in college results.
Acceptance, deferral, or rejection dominate the admissions process, supposedly defining a student’s future with either failure or “Ivy-league” quality lives. Applicants face the tires of writing the Common/Coalition Application essay, school-specific essays, take advantage of school-specific interviews, and present splendid standardized test scores, extracurriculars, leadership positions, sports, etc. There’s never an end to the horrendous dreams of getting rejected from one’s dream college or, even worse, not getting accepted into a single college. All, I will admit, are reasonable, worthwhile worries other than the last part – you’ll get into a college, as all qualified college counselors will accurately tell you.
After pressing the “submit” button, you’ll be stunned, shocked even that you’ve actually submitted your application. That in the blink of an eye, you gave up your fate to be determined by random, yet highly qualified individuals. But amidst the anxiety and constant headaches you get from wanting the results, you must keep in mind that you gave it your best. It’ll be hard to believe because you’ll always think that you could’ve added more extracurriculars to further appeal your excellence in leadership to application readers or that you could’ve taken advantage of the last five words you had left in the essay word count.
But as a senior who’s recently experienced the admissions process, I offer advice on how future applicants can successfully and, without complete exhaustion, frame their next four years of education.
Start early. Really. It’ll save you great effort and emotional burden.
“I started officially preparing in the summer before my senior year with my parents and college counselor,” said Amber, who was accepted ED to Cornell University’s Class of 2023 and wished for her last name to remain anonymous. “I researched about college reputation, location, food/residency, school size, and the population of my own ethnicity group.”
Begin your research not only early but also with preferences in mind. Name and reputation could be important, sure, but if Harvard, for example, doesn’t offer classes in your desired major or is located in a city with horrible weather, what’s the point of spending four years and thousands of dollars in tuition?
“I also began my applications in the summer,” said Amber. “HIGHLY RECOMMEND. I started with the UC app which was a big help to write all the other essays. Starting early helped to lower stress level once school starts.”
I personally spent a bit too much time on my Personal Statement. Yes, I started in the summer and created a piece I was extremely proud of but ended up changing the topic as a whole. I finished it late October along with numerous school-specific essays and ended up feeling drained for weeks afterwards. Experiment with topics early on. Don’t make the mistake I did.
“It’s important to note that everyone has his/her own unique story and would never be similar as others”, said Amber. “The key is to present your authentic self with true emotions. It is the solid details that matters. Don’t be vague.”
College admissions officers read thousands of essays. Each essay could get 1-2 minutes, worst comes to worst. And if your essay is another one of those “typical” ones talking about your grandma or traumatic experiences as a child? Good luck persuading your readers to give your essay a chance.
In terms of interviews and extra curriculars, there are countless tips online that really do serve well. It’s critical to be your authentic selves. Admissions officers and interviewers can see right through your facade, so that’s not the impression you’d want to leave.
“In general, though, trust yourself and that your hard work will pay off,” said Amber. “Work so that you won’t regret anything.”
And parents, please let your children breathe during the process. You may be their legal guardians and source of tuition, but you are also (and really should be) their biggest supporters. The most crushing words I ever received during the admissions process was from my own dad when he offered honest comments on my essay. So understand and appreciate their efforts. The entire process is already stressful enough.
Jenny Huh, Grade 12