Eeek College, Where Do I Begin?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

If I had to summarize senior year, I would say it's checking your email religiously. As someone who rarely has checked her email since 2008, this was an adjustment. I kind of have an excuse because after my inbox reached over 5,000 messages from Facebook, (because I never disabled notification) I sort of gave up. 

Fast forward 6 years, and I'm painstakingly trying to clear my inbox, so I can start using my email again. Long story short, when you start applying to colleges, your email will become your best friend.

Besides the ridiculous amount of emails I've gotten from colleges that I never knew existed, I've also received nearly 30 emails from people following my blog asking about the whole college process. So hey, maybe clearing out my inbox and stepping up my email game isn't so bad. Anyways, instead of writing basically the same thing to all 30 people, I've promised a blog post about how to start this crazy thing called the college process, so here it is.

I'll start this post with a happy thought.

Here is me a few weeks ago. I had just gotten into the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, so I was a little excited. I'm showing you this picture first because I want you to know there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Because after you read this post you'll feel slightly overwhelmed.

I can promise you that the college process does not start with happy faces and big posters with fake confetti on them.

In fact, it usually involves months of eye rolling, frustration and constant essay writing. (Seriously, I can't remember the last time I didn't have an essay to write.)

You've been warned. Getting into college is all fun and games, but it's all the stuff before that really matters.

The first step in the college process is choosing the schools to apply to. Duh.

Okay, this may sound way too simple, but it's actually really hard. I mean, it's November 1, and I'm still considering applying to a few more schools. Also, have you ever tried using the computer for all work and no fun hours on end? Yeah, it's not pleasant.

All jokes aside, it's never too early to start searching. Do you like small towns, big cities, mountains, beaches? I can tell you from experience that there's something for everyone out there, so don't be afraid to be selective!

The second step is applying to the different schools. This also sounds fairly simple, but you may want to apply to 5 schools, and all 5 schools might have their own application. In an ideal world, there would be one universal application that every school accepted, but that would be way too easy. So, figure out how many different applications you'll have to do. This may narrow down your college list significantly.

So, you're now halfway there. You know where you're applying, you know what application you need to use, what's next? Here's where it gets tough (unless you're me and terribly indecisive because in that case, every single aspect of this process is difficult). It's time for essays.

How to Survive Writing College Essays

First and foremost, I am not going to pretend that I am an expert on college essays cause I'm not. Everything I'm about to say is based on what I've been doing right now and what seems to be working. 

1. Always be yourself.

There's a misconception that you have to have the vocabulary of a Harvard graduate or the eloquence of F. Scott Fitzgerald to get into college. The thing is, I think being yourself is highly underrated. Don't pretend to be someone you're not in your essays. Don't lie about what's happened in your life. You are unlike anyone else on this planet. You are unique. Your story is one of a kind. You are important, so don't waste your time trying to impersonate someone else. Colleges want you because you're you.

2. Concise is nice.

A five page paper may sound good in theory, but if you're babbling on about nonsensical things, you might as well write a 2 page paper instead. If you've said all you want to say, don't worry if your paper's not a short novel. On the other hand, don't cut your paper too short. Make sure that you've answered the prompt and reached the designated amount of words. (Also, on an off note, cutting words from a paper is usually way easier than adding words.)

3. The hardest part is starting.

I know teachers always praise brainstorming and sketching out ideas and all the planning that happens before you actually start writing, but sometimes you just need to sit down and start. Starting the paper is the hardest part of the entire essay. Seriously, read that sentence again. Once you have something down you can edit and rewrite to your heart's content, but you have to have something written in order to start editing. Don't be afraid to dive in. 

4. Ask your friends for help.

You can hire people to edit your essays and meet with your teachers everyday after school, but don't forget about your friends. My friends have been the best editors, and that's pretty cool.

5. Pace yourself.

Like most things, college essays don't happen overnight. Honestly, at times they seem to take over your life. You're on your 21st draft of that essay? Great, do 5 more, and you might have a final draft on your hands! Yeah, all sarcasm aside, it's rough. Don't wait until the last minute. Rushing to finish an essay is like walking around with wet socks on aka not cool at all.

6. You can brag.

I hate talking about myself. I would seriously rather go without the internet for a year than talk nonstop about myself. The only thing worse than talking about myself is without doubt writing about myself. That being said, you want colleges to know what you've done. You don't have to go overboard and sound really self-absorbed, but there is a way to humbly say, "Hey, I've worked really hard and played like 13123 varsity sports and volunteered here, here, and here, so I would probably be an awesome addition to your school."

After you've finished the monumental task that is commonly known as college essays, it's a downhill ride from here. All you've got to do is complete your resume and submit. Sweeeeet. 

I'm not going to go in depth with the whole resume idea because resumes tend to be fairly personal. Put what you've done. Be honest. Be thorough. You've got this in the bag.

If you've made it this far, you rock. Now comes the waiting game. Submit your application, turn on some cool music, go for a walk, dance to Taylor Swift's new album '1989', basically, do anything but worry.  

The world is an endless invitation to you right now. You may not get into your dream school. Who knows? Everything that can go wrong might go wrong. But that's okay. You're going to do great things wherever you go to college.

I hope this little post helped all of you nice people who've emailed me. I wish you so so much luck as you start looking to apply. Now go enjoy this lovely Saturday night. You have an extra hour tonight because of time change, and gas is under $3, so why not do something spontaneous and go somewhere. :-)
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7 Happy Thoughts

  1. Thanks for the tips, Katherine! I'll definitely bookmark this for when I start applying in ~1.5 years (ugh) :)

  2. I agree with everything you said here! The college admission process is terrible, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

  3. Ahh congrats on Texas A&M!!! (Although my friend just said "go Texas Tech!") Are you uh…applying to Boston University by any chance? :D
    Your eye-rolling picture is so on point and your tips are gold. If only I had you during my college process. You have your life pretty down pat it seems, but if you ever need anything, let me know! You rock my (red) sox.

  4. Go girl!! College is such a great time of your life! Enjoy every moment of it!!!

  5. I think you should consider Oklahoma State because, you know, it's the best. :) Congrats on your acceptances!!

  6. So dreading college apps! I'm hoping I can just get accepted into my first choice and that will be that. I hate writing essays so much.. yuck. I hate talking about myself too! I feel like I sound so self-centered!

  7. Aww man, applying to colleges is a pain in the ass. You're almost there though! College was so fun :)


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