One Last Task, Before Succumbing to Senioritis
by Alicja Ramotowski
It’s that time of year again. Seniors are in the home stretch to finish their college applications before senioritis sets in. For some, applying to college is a well thought out process, with self-set deadlines and goals to stay on track. Unfortunately, for the struggling majority, applying to college is a stressful situation overflowing with angry parents, letters of recommendation, and of course what seems like hundreds of essays. The most common tip is “start early,” but what if you don’t?
Make sure everything in your documents is technically sound. Use the correct name, address, and other personal information and double check all of these before submitting. This reduces the risk that your application will be lost or confused with another. Keep copies of all your forms, and wait for confirmation that your materials have arrived. If you are working online, you should get a confirmation email. If you apply through the mail, you can put a postcard with your address in with your application so the admissions office can send it back to you, letting you know everything arrived. If you don’t receive confirmation, you might want to reach out to the school. When it comes to the college of your dreams, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Grades and SAT scores are important, but for some schools, the biggest deciding factor when it comes to their applicants is their essays. Before writing a long, confusing essay and realizing when you are done that you did not answer the prompt, take a moment to think. Read the prompt a few times through and analyze what it is asking you. Brainstorm a few different outlines of essays you could write, and then choose the one that makes the most sense, and that you are passionate about. If you don’t have an interview and have never talked to an admissions representative, the essays you include in your application are the only way they can get to know you.
Don’t submit the first thing that pops into your head. “Letting it flow” and writing down your first surge of ideas can be beneficial, but don’t stop there. Keep thinking to ensure your writing is of the best possible quality. Include vivid and interesting examples or anecdotes and personal examples which will help enrich your piece and keep it interesting. Using some “big words” can be a good idea, but make absolutely sure that you are including them sparingly and correctly. Nothing screams “don’t accept me to your college” more than small, frequent mistakes that convince your audience you didn’t even put enough time into your writing to do a simple spelling or vocabulary check. Many applications have length constraints so don’t blab just to blab. Make sure everything you write has a purpose and contributes to your end goal. Think critically and try to answer prompts in an unusual way that has not been done before. This can be challenging considering the number of essays you have to write and the number of essays your admissions representative has read over the years. Keep in mind that different is usually good (don’t write about the type of people who pee in the shower and those who don’t, as cautioned by the University of Chicago representative).
Finally, seek second opinions. Ask family members, teachers, or friends to read over your essays and critique, but make sure that after all of their comments, the essay is still yours. It is recommended that you don’t ask more than 2-3 people to read your essays, because too much feedback can confuse you, sway you from your original goal, and end up in a low quality, jumbled response.
Many students struggle with writing introduction and conclusions, but those are the parts of the writing that is read first and last, often leaving a lasting impression on the reader, so do some research on which type of intro and conclusion will achieve your desired effect. In the end, just be yourself. Write honestly and from the heart, not just what you think the college wants to hear. The college application process is formulated the way it is for a reason, and if you follow these guidelines and don’t slack off, it will help you end up where you will be happy and belong.
Even if you didn’t get a head start on applying to college, try not to procrastinate any longer. Deadlines are coming up; University of Chicago on January 1, Northwestern University on January 1, University of Michigan on February 2, and many others are closing the doors soon. You don’t want to be scrambling to finish your applications while Times Square counts down the seconds to your doom. Plan out your time accordingly and write with consideration of the tips listed above, and success will follow.