Dear Senior Year,
It’s been a rough few months trying to get the best grades possible and finishing all my college visits and applications, and I just wanted to say thanks for hanging in there with me. I know at times you wanted to disown me. I saw the way you looked at me when I threw my laptop across the room, unable to write another reason why University X is the only place I would want to go, but here we are, mid-January and I just wanted to say thank you for hanging in. Everyone is telling me how time will fly over the next few months and that I need to slow it down, enjoy every minute and make these last days of childhood count. Not to worry, I have a very long senior year bucket list, and I plan on ticking off my to-do list items one by one. But as I was thinking about all the fun things I still want to do before graduation, it occurred to me that all of my good friends who are juniors might be writing this same letter next year after a grueling six months of getting through their college process. Why not pass on some words of wisdom that might make the most stressful process I’ve ever been through a little easier, or minimally to save them some time.
- When you are on college visits, make sure to write down at least three things that struck you as unique. Because after your 10th college visit, all schools will blur together. When it comes time to write the Why Us essay you will be thrilled to pull out your little notepad. All of a sudden, memories of the fresh sushi you ate in the cafeteria, the diverse signage on the bulletin board in the union and how Sydney, your tour guide, was one of the most interesting 19-year-olds you’ve ever met will come flooding back.
- Don’t wait to write your Common Application essay. Last year, the prompts came out at the end of January. That means you can start writing your essay in the next few weeks. Many of my friends said they wanted to wait to write the essay because nothing big had happened to them and they were hoping over the summer, they would have this huge epiphany and the essay would write itself. What I’ve realized is that most kids our age don’t have a big story to tell and that isn’t what admissions are looking for anyway. They are looking for the small story that tells the larger one. That story already exists in your memory bank, and you can start writing about it as soon as the prompts are announced. The best essay is one that goes through many many edits and isn’t rushed in the fall.
- Try to have a college list that includes Early Action and Rolling Admissions as well as Regular (in addition to Early Decision if you are going that route). I knew where I wanted to apply Early Decision, but I also had a few Early Action schools. It’s nice to have a few acceptances if your ED doesn’t work out. Trust me; you’ll be happy to know you are going somewhere instead of having to wait until April.
- Get organized! Once you have your list of schools that you want to apply to, do the research to find out which have supplemental essays, what their word counts are and when they are due. Then arrange them in due date order and see if there is any crossover between schools. Many schools ask for supplementals about work experience or extracurriculars. Write the essay that has the longest word count first and then edit it down to the lower word count for the additional school. Work efficiently. There can be a lot of supplemental essays, and you don’t want to make more work for yourself than necessary.
- Stay cool. They say there is a school for everyone and there is. Don’t pay too much attention to what your friends and peers are doing – everyone is unique, has their selling points, and experiences and your applications will reflect those differences. Just make sure your list is thorough and includes schools across the range from safer to reach.
There is no easy way through the process but its a right of passage that most teenagers must go through. Hopefully, these tips can help make it a little less anxiety ridden for the next group of seniors. Now, back to my senior bucket list!