You may think you have a pretty good grip on what type of person you are. Let’s face it, you just spent the last four years of your life jockeying for social status and acceptance in teenage hormone land, otherwise known as high school. Everything from where you sat at lunch to which classes you took was something that defined you and dictated what your day to day life was like.
Maybe you really like skating? Maybe you really like math? Maybe you really like painting? All noble activities, but allow me to tell you something exciting and maybe a little concerning. As well as you think you know yourself and what you enjoy doing, the college application process will mess with your preconceptions and alter the way you look back at the things you’ve done.
When I started filling out my MIT application I had a pretty solid game plan: Stress band, life in the country, and sense of humor and then sprinkle a love of building things and strong work ethic on top. Simple enough, I figured it summed me up pretty well.
I started filling out the MIT application the day it became available (I actually think I got Part I in about four hours after it was posted online) so that I’d have plenty of time to just roll the essay topics around in my head and wait for inspiration. That’s the thing about writing for me, I can’t force myself to write something within a given prompt, I have to just wait until I randomly come up with the perfect plan or idea and then I run with it. That’s why although I filled out almost every part of my application starting on August 1st I didn’t start filling out my main essay until around October 1st. It scared my parents that I hadn’t even thought about the essay, let alone started writing it, with only a month left. I, however, wasn’t worried, because until October 1st I hadn’t had the perfect idea, something to write about that actually said who I was.
You will probably run into this while applying to colleges, especially if you’re doing it right. If you’re cranking out applications like an assembly line worker you may not have time to just wait for the perfect essay so you’ll have to rely on writing skills alone. I suggest you pick the school you most want to attend and just mull over the essay topics. Don’t necessarily think about them, but just remember them and see what happens during day-to-day life that would help make that essay the best it can be.
This post is called “discovering yourself” because as much as you think you know about yourself, by the end of the college application process you will know so much more. It makes you think about what truly matters in your life, what aspects do you feel are more important than others, what do you value? Is band more important than Model UN? You only have room for a couple of activities, some may have to be dropped, which will they be? On MIT’s application you’ll have to remember what you’ve done over the last several summers and pick the things that you feel helped shape you. You’ll also have to find something that you do just for fun, which was actually one of the harder things to write in my application. I do so many things for fun, which one was the one I find most important? Have you ever just sat down and thought about the one thing you do for fun that you’d put above all of the others?
When you’re done filling out an application, if you’ve done it correctly, you’ll have a boiled down version of you. In theory you’ve dug deep and figured out what matters in your life, transferred it to paper, and can only hope that admissions will like what they see. Writing what you hope admissions wants to see is a dangerous dangerous game to play. You need to be a good fit for MIT and if an application gets you accepted but doesn’t reflect who you are, you may be absolutely miserable here and will have nobody to blame but yourself. You’ll want to yell and scream at MIT and everybody around you, but you’ll actually know that it was because you lied about who you were and you get to enjoy the consequences.
I hope applying to college is as meaningful for you as it was for me. A big part of the reason I’m an admissions blogger now is because of the college application process and how much I gained from it. I wouldn’t be nearly as willing to help people and answer questions if I had been dishonest or “studied to the test” because then I wouldn’t know if I actually belonged here. I do belong here, because that application was me, and I know that when MIT accepted that application they were going to get the student they read about.
Enjoy the process and learn a lot, you won’t regret it in the slightest. As a little present I’ve built a handy-dandy spreadsheet for you to keep track of all those teacher recommendations and things. It’s not perfect (maybe kind of ugly?) but it’s totally functional and you’re welcome to tweak it to your own specifications. Boxes can be either red or green with a date. Red indicates that the action has not taken place yet, green with a date lets you know when it has. This template is set up with the colleges I was going to apply to but feel free to change the names/colors of the columns to match your college preferences.
There’s another tab at the bottom of the spreadsheet called “Mailing Labels.” This is a good place to put the addresses to the schools so that you know where to mail all of this stuff. Go ahead and add more tabs, colors, labels, or anything else you want. Spreadsheets are wonderful ways of organizing a ton of information and keeping everything in order. Good luck!
Click here for the awesome college organizational spreadsheet!
Oh, and here’s a dancing lemur for Sam (see 10th comment)
I love the color coding!
what I also did was typing out all my awards, summer activities, and extra curricular things onto a spread sheet. I can easily reference to it when I fill out the different college forms, simply copy and paste from my mater copy. This way, I’ll have consistency and I won’t have to think up a description every time.
FIRST!!! Great post, Snively, very useful.
Awesome post! Thanks so much for the spreadsheet! I hope to make full use of it. Have a great summer!
Another useful color-coded way to make college applications easier is to make a spreadsheet with all the colleges you’re applying to and their essay topics- like, one column for MIT, and then all their essay topics in different cells, a different column for that other tech school with all THEIR essays, and so on. And then you color code the cells that have a similar topic in the same color until you have a very colorful map of topics that overlap. That way, you’re not writing multiple essays for every school and can choose which question(s) to focus on.
LOL. I didn’t know what Excel was during application time – I just did everything on paper. The old fashioned way =D.
I was totally an application machine – I applied to 16 schools (all before EA results because I was afraid I’d be rejected/too depressed to go on with the rest). I just kept adding schools and sending things in…
Though I did mull the MIT essays. Except the optional *anything you want here* one – I originally wasn’t going to write anything, but just before the deadline I thought of something awesome and wrote it up. I’m fairly certain that essay is why I got in =D. Yay inspiration!
Another useful way to do things is to wait until the last minute and let panic take over!
I typed up a checklist of all of the colleges and posted it on my door, checking things off as I completed them…or so was the plan. Eventually I changed the colleges I was going to apply to so many times that I gave up ever printing the list and just went with it.
I totally agree that starting the essays early is the best plan – I also submitted Part 1 the day that the application came out, then spent the rest of August and September writing essays until something I actually liked popped out of my head and into MS Word. And yeah, don’t lie. Do you *really* want a college to accept you that you wouldn’t fit in at, anyway?
The spreadsheet is probably a good way to organize things, though. Props on the color coding
Panic for the win! =D
Also, this is my brain spurting something half an hour later – isn’t it “mushy”?
blah blah blah… I don’t read the Snivblog for mush; I read it for videos of lemurs you found on the internet. Seriously, worst post ever on MITblogs.
(I didn’t actually read this post; I just scrolled down looking for lemurs and saw that there weren’t any)
Although I am normally a list person- I make lists for everything, and when I’m bored, I often end up with a pile of lists, but strangely enough, I went through the whole college application process with very few lists, or very unorganized ones. I just kept tabs on the applications, and looked back at each periodically. Worked well enough for me.
It’s strange that focus is starting to shift towards the ’13s! We’re not quite there yet…
Yeah, I agree with Becca. We’re not at the ’13s yet, at least not until you post 2 more dancing lemurs.
You applied to CALTECH!?!?!?!
Though a lot MIT students did. I mean, they’re both top schools in the field, right? (And you’d be a beaver either way.)
… though I didn’t. It was outta California for me =D.
inspiring blog entry
Oh, my gosh, that is the scariest cat ever.
My summer work experiences had to of disturbed the admission’s office when I told them all the Grave digging I did in the summer. If you ever need quick cash and can work hard and fast spend all day till midnight digging graves. Or maybe it was the essay on my ankle snapping out of place and I had to pop back into place. For those wondering: no it did not go back into the right place, sadly.:(
Wow, you all make me feel really unorganized.
Oh, wait, I really am.
I (sort of) used the calendar on my computer, but otherwise I just kind of relied on my memory when it came to getting things done. Which is precisely why I was so stressed (and nearly went crazy) this past school year. Potential ’13s: be organized!
Nice blog entry…even though its not typically “Snively”!
And the Lemurs made my day!!
nice post!! thanks for the spreadsheet!!
Nice post, Snively. Kudos for the spreadsheet too, I’ll be using that a lot I think. ^^
Great post! I’m a list person and I love the spreadsheet and will definitely be using it this fall when applying to colleges. Also, I recommend using file folders for each school to organize the physical contents to avoid a situation like this:
on mailing day.
You’re absolutely right. I found out strange things (i like) about myself a couple of months ago.
I’d always assumed that applying to colleges would be a pain but (at the risk of sounding very dorky I’ll say) the essays were actually rather fun to do.
I wish I hadn’t done everything so last minute.
Prospies, (we’re allowed to call them that?) start with the introspection right now.
looks like I cant even spell my name right these days :S
just a suggestion but could you PLEASE write an entry on HASS’s? i know a lot of people are really confused about requirements, differences between HASS and HASS-D, the HASS lottery, when to take HASS classes, etc..
thanks a lot.
That lemur video made my day, I usually dont read ur stuff i just look for pictures and videos that may tickle my fancy. Touche’.
Snievly, or … may I call you Michael? I was planning to apply for MIT last year just like you did, but I screwed it. I actually left myself so little time that I didn’t even have time to download the forms. But during that process, I did see a lot of your comments on this site and I did see your own blog (before you became an MIT blogger). And you know what? I really like your entries. Glad to see you blogging for MIT. I think I’ll try to get in this year!