They say practice makes perfect, but what do you exactly do in situations where you can neither practice nor need perfection? Come January and while the rest of the world is busy celebrating a new year, the entire population of graduating high school seniors (while they should be celebrating a new life that awaits them) are losing sleep over the fast approaching college admission deadlines and wondering if they are mature enough to make such life altering decisions when they still sing the alphabet to see what letter comes next. Let me tell you, all you clueless and not-so-clueless-but-still-equally-worried people, that you are amazing. You are unique and college life is the obvious next, and the best, step to your life and you shouldn’t lose sleep over something that should come naturally to you. There are however some things that you should do:
- Start Early: College may not seem an immediate idea but it is an important one. Start early! Create a spreadsheet of all your requirements and get down to one goal per week. Maybe you need a letter of recommendation from your teachers or coaches. Such things are not best left to the last minute, so try doing such things early on!
- Research: Throw away your preconceived notions and the problems that come with them at least for a brief while and research. And by research I mean really really research. Read up all that you possibly can. The web is full of resources to help you if only you try. The motive of this exercise is to choose courses and colleges that interest you. (Also look at point 6.) You should ideally make up a list of colleges that you think will be an ideal ‘fit’ for you. Try asking yourself if you would be okay living in another city. Maybe you can move to another country. Maybe there are country specific scholarships in prestigious colleges for courses that you want to do. You’ll never know unless you research.
- Talk to seniors: People who have been through the same thing as you are currently going through can not only be a great source of inspiration to keep you motivated, but also provide fresh perspectives on issues that probably didn’t even occur to you. Talk to them!
- Talk to teachers: people who have taught you know your potential well. They wish only the best for you and often have more access to information. Opening up to your teachers will help you better get in touch with your goals and chart a clear path to how you should go on to achieve that! Pro tip: Colleges you apply to should be grouped into 3 main categories: Target, Reach and Safety schools. Teachers can really help you select colleges for each category!
- College admission essays: arguably the most important part of your admission process, the admission essay is your voice. It tells the admission officers what cannot be read off your resume. It tells them what you as a person can offer to the college. It is probably the only chance you have to tell your story so make it count. Be engaging, introspective and intelligent. Be individualistic and tell them why you would fit in perfectly with their college’s culture. Avoid the 4D’s while writing essays though: Drugs, Divorce, Death and Depression. You might think writing on such topics would make you seem deep but in all honesty, it doesn’t. Also do not talk about something that happened to someone you know. It is about yourself!
- Introspection: College is a time when you reinvent yourself. You will discover things you love during this journey and the only way you can make most of it is if you realise what really matters to you. You might want to go to a school with a great drama program and a great science program and that’s perfectly alright! Think now and you’ll love yourself for the journey you have that awaits you.
- Keep your grades up! I know about how senioritis can overtake your entire life but staying focused on school is more important than ever. Slagging off and attending each party might seem like fun (probably even is) but believe in delayed gratitude. Trust me it’s worth it!
- Proofread but don’t over read: I can understand how your parents and siblings might want to go over your essays but please do not let them take over. It’s your voice not theirs. Do proofread everything, especially if you’re recycling essays (a friend of mine told Yale how Dartmouth was the perfect fit for her, obviously didn’t end too well) but do not let them alter your voice in any way.
- Realize that the best part of your life is yet to come and while it is okay to be overwhelmed by everything at this stage, everything is going to be fine. Don’t panic!
- Eat as much home cooked food as you possibly can, while you’re at it. You’re definitely going to miss it next year.
Rajsi Rana is a first year Computer Science and Business student at Trinity College Dublin. Originally hailing from India, Rajsi loves the Beatles and fairy tales, believes that code is poetry and represents Trinity as an ambassador with Enterprise Ireland. She is also a highly successful blogger on Quora.