My parents probably heard too many exasperated sighs filled with frustration and stress as I checked boxes and crafted essay after essay. I didn’t have the easy senior year that I expected– college applications consumed me. Granted, I made a faux pas (or three) that only added to my misery. Learn from my mistakes:
1. Know your limits.
Read the fine print: is it a word count or character limit? My first stumbling block was the character limit on the Common App for NYU; I was too quick to assume that every essay revolved around a word count. Paring down essays that I labored over not only took more time, but it proved to be a painful process. Five hundred words had to squeeze its way into five hundred characters which results in about two to three sentences. It felt like I was chopping a perfectly fine essay into chunks.
2. Don’t forget about transcripts.
I may be in high school, but I thought a transcript-fairy sent colleges my grades. Two days before my deadline, I checked into accountability and realized that wishing on a shooting star wouldn’t suffice. My wishful thinking cost me about thirty dollars when I shipped a piece of paper overnight to the other side of the country. Plus, pure procrastination and avoiding the simplest task added more stress than necessary
3. Give teachers plenty of time to write recommendation letters.
I knew this much: you should request a recommendation letter at least two weeks before your college’s deadline. Two weeks sounds like a long time to me as I’m working on day to day basis in school. I knew all I had to do was politely ask for a letter from a teacher, then email them through the Common App and then I could check that off my list of things to do.
However, sending an email over break isn’t immediately received. This simple task added additional stress the already burdensome application process. Ultimately, I turned in my applications without the letters, but the Common App did show that I had invited teachers and done my part. After break, those letters of rec were sent and all it took was an apologetic phone call to the universities. In the end, letters of rec should not be traumatic in the first place.
4. Invest in a calendar.
I can think of one cure-all for all of my flounders: a calendar. My obsessive list-making didn’t cut it; visually seeing how many days until a deadline would have done wonders for me. Plus, I feel as though the looming deadlines would seem more tangible and less intimidating if I made a place for them in the midst of my busy schedule. High school students have the night before, on the fly management down pat, but long term time management is key here.
Although I find this advice hard to swallow while making life changing decisions such as college, you’ll go where you’re supposed to go. My mistakes seemed like fatal errors at the time but, in retrospect, they were only bumps in the road. I’m watching all of my plans fall into place and soon you will, too.