You made it. You worked hard for eleven years, and even more so for the past three. I hope you had fun, and sufficient challenges as well. Now you’re ready to move on to a stage not predetermined by government regulations. College is completely optional, yet, if you find the right one to attend, you will get the most formative (and simply the best) years of your academic path.
With that in mind, I would like to impart some advice regarding the application months, not as an expert, but as someone whose senior fall experience still smoulders in the mind. Here goes:
- Breathe. Don’t Procrastinate. Enjoy.You are among the oldest generation of students in your school. And while the status has its perks, little time is left for you to complete life’s greatest project. So relax, but do write your college essay immediately (I’ll attempt to help with this soon). The worst essays are surely composed days before the deadline. And I’ll add this: the Internet isn’t perfect (*gasp*). The Common Application and MyMIT both experience “glitches.” These happened to me, three times, so good thing I started early. Also, enjoy the writing. That makes it so much easier. Overall, senior life is fascinating. Don’t miss it.
- Connect. Venture one conversation with a commonly seen stranger. Reconnect with old friends. Approach teachers for small talk. Yes, time may be running out on your high school years, but it’s never too late. In college, you will want to sustain ties to the past. Strengthen them now. And let other humans help you with the college process. Last fall, my parents, teachers, and friends all provided feedback and support. At least six different people reviewed my main college essay. Consequently, this summer was my most sociable ever, for I had discovered much about the people in my life. I couldn’t have arrived here without them.
- Decide What’s Important. MIT allows applicants to enter five activities into the application (and some summer happenings as well). “How will they know the extent of my involvement through five entries?” you may wonder. I did as well. Then I spent excruciating minutes (hours?) wondering what really mattered. Once I knew, the question no longer presented a challenge. Yes, I’ve had plenty of fun in high school, but when I picked a direction, five slots were enough to highlight it. I even put “playing with my toddler sister” and “writing and reading” on the Summer Activities list. Those were essential to me. If the selection still seems intolerable, use the interview as a chance to describe your life outside the classroom in the greatest detail.
- Be Excited. Google defines the word as “very enthusiastic and eager.” I describe it as “being able to appreciate life and work.” This means taking “difficult” classes out of curiosity, and not requirement or odd propensity towards excessive learning; doing activities you love, and, even if things aren’t going well, being happy to complete them. It means never having to sacrifice dancing with a sibling and meeting friends for a sunny walk for the sake of a torturous assignment; and the ability to notice the beautiful details of life, whether it be interesting lab equipment or a deer among the trees. Find something that brings you excitement, however minor (or vital) it is. Savor it.
- Have a Plan B. Mine was to camp outside the Admissions Office for several weeks if I got into none of the schools I liked. Apparently, it has worked for some (caution: not at MIT). Could it not work for me?.. On a more serious note, have a backup and a positive attitude. Maybe your personality did indeed clash with MIT values, but maybe the rejection was a simple mistake. In any case, if you truly desire to be here, apply again. You may gain much from losing a year. If anything, it builds character. I endured 20 rejections prior to my first acceptance in the literary world. Was it difficult? Surely, but I have no regrets, as the experience was essential in preparation for real life.
- Don’t Worry. Really, Don’t. In the end, you don’t pick a college, but the college picks you, and the selection often has little to do with your merits as a learner and a person. I discovered this from rejections. It became clear in those sombre moments that what I had assumed about myself and the rejecting college was wrong. We were not, in fact, meant to be. I’m at MIT now, and I’ve met more kindred spirits than ever before. Here, I am certain to receive support and resources for collaboration. When you are choosing, dear Applicant, do it not because of the excellent programs, but because of the people who will help you reach your full potential. Eventually, you will find the perfect fit. If not, try again.
In summary, here is a concise blurb of what I have to say to you, dearest Applicant to the Class of 2019 (or 2020 and beyond):
Stay excited and discover all the ways your school and community can lead you to your dream.
Take some challenging classes and some that fascinate you.
Go out of your way sometimes to meet people who are different from you. Discover their story.
Don’t complain about your current life. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.
Volunteer for your passion and work so that you can do more towards it.
Learn to make any task entertaining and every mistake an educational experience.
Write that college essay now in a flurry of inspiration. Don’t worry what the admissions officers will think of you, and be honest with them and yourself.
Lastly, smile at someone. Right now.
And remember that people look best when they are laughing.
Wishing you all the best and greatest,