For rising high school seniors, this summer marks the calm before a year-long storm — one that will determine the next four years of your life. Parents, peers, and teachers all have some advice to give about the college application process. There’s certainly no shortage of articles online about “how to maximize your chances of getting into college”. Heck, the article is one of them. But if you take anything away, let it be this:
Applying to college should be about you.
Yes, everyone wants to get into the best schools. Who wouldn’t want something to show for the twelve years of schooling they had to endure? But here’s the thing: you’ve already made it. No college rejection — or acceptance — can take away from who you are, and no admissions officer will be able to fully appreciate how far you’ve come as a person or determine your potential from a ten-page file.
I realize that this does little to calm anyone. To many, college is a one-way ticket away from home, an exciting adventure, the key to a brighter future. The aforementioned advice certainly didn’t stop me from replaying the documentary “Ivy Dreams” every day during the month of March. But when my Ivy League Dreams came true, they didn’t make me happy.
Sure, you might be thinking, “Well, I would be STOKED to go to an Ivy League school”. When I got in, I had to ask myself why I wanted to go to that school. Anyone can say that the Ivy League offers so many opportunities and opens so many doors, but that isn’t exclusive to eight old-money schools. And beyond that, what use was all of the opportunities and prestige of the Ivy League if I wasn’t happy? If you think you’ll be happy at Stanford or Harvard just because everything seems to point to chasing after these schools, then you’re in for a rough ride.
With that being said, there are a couple things that you can do to prepare for your impending do- I mean, the college application season:
1. Start brainstorming your Common Application essay and supplements.
Writing doesn’t have to be a drag! I took this time to reflect on my childhood and have fun with it. If you go into it with the mindset of reflection, rather than crafting a perfect essay for an admissions officer, then I promise it’s much less daunting and much more enjoyable. The refining can come later.
2. Apply to fly-in programs.
Colleges offer expense-paid college visits to rising high school seniors. What better way to see if you like a college than to actually be there? There is really no excuse to miss out on opportunities like these; Check out our fly-in list of almost 50 colleges right here.
You have a summer break for a reason: to take a break! It’s terribly cliche, but life is meant to be lived in the present. I’m probably saying this in vain, but don’t forget to enjoy the moment. Statistically speaking, by the time you graduate from school, you will have used up 90+ percent of the time you will have spent in-person with your parents. The same often goes for siblings and friends from high school. But you’re still in high school! Cherish the time you have left with them. This article on the time we have left puts things in perspective.
4. If you're still looking for things to do...
a) You can reach out to professors at local colleges if you're willing to work for free! Simply email them. It never hurts to try — it can turn into a research opportunity!
b) Apply to hackathons if you're tech savvy! Many offer travel reimbursement and are open to high schoolers. Plus, t's a productive way to spend your summer. Here's a list to get you started.
c) Register for visits at local colleges to get a feel for what you will be looking for when forming your college list.
d) Use this time to turn something you are passionate about into something tangible! Want to be a doctor? Get your EMT certification! Do you like to play or write music? Go busking or reach out to freelance producers! Are you into fitness? Become a certified personal fitness trainer! The only person stopping you is yourself.
In the end, [insert cliche ending here] — and good luck!