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MIT student blogger Shannon M. '12

How to look over your application and advice about breathing. by Shannon M. '12

My older younger brother is your age. I am fully aware of how much you’re freaking out right now.

Oh man, it has been a while and a half since I’ve blogged. However, this is not important, and you guys can probably stand to wait another week before I update you on the last 5 months of my life. Right now, this is about you, because as of RIGHT NOW, you only have this much time left before your early applications are due, and if you are anything like I was back in the day, or my younger brother is right now, or like anyone I know was the week before their college applications were due, you are probably freaking out.

Have no fear, though! Because here is what you should do this week in 3 easy steps (results not guaranteed, though they turned out alright for me):

1) Finish (or start…) your essays/”short written responses”/whatever they’re calling them these days– This sounds like common sense, but considering I wrote my entire main essay for UChicago the night it was due, I figure a few of you might need this reminder. You need to actually do the essays first before you can edit them. Just throwing that one out there.

2) Pretend you’re not you– This sounds counterintuitive, I know, especially because you’ve just spent hours crafting essays that perfectly depict who you are. The thing is, after all this, you really, really know yourself, to the point that if you keep reading over your own essays, you’ll just fill in the gaps of information that someone else might need to make sense of the essay. Like, you might know that your brother is only a year younger than you, but if you reference your baby brother’s first girlfriend or something you might need to clarify a bit.

So this is knowing yourself business is no longer super helpful. Ideally, you have someone else who doesn’t mind reading over multiple drafts of your essays to do this for you, but it doesn’t hurt to do it yourself, too. Take a step back, and while reading your essay, try to answer the question: If I didn’t know myself, what would I think of the person writing this essay? If that person isn’t the part of you that you were trying to get across, then you need to fix something. If you don’t like the person who came across but it was an honest essay… you have larger problems that it is not in my job description to deal with.

3) Read over your entire application as the you-who-isn’t-you-from-number-2– What does it say about you? Does each part contribute to the bigger picture of you that you’re trying to get across? Would you want to admit yourself? Do you have typos? Did you spell your name right? (true story: I almost submitted my Common App as Shanon).

The best analogy that I’ve ever heard regarding college apps is this: your college application should read like a story, with each part building upon the next. You don’t want it to get repetitive, but it should have some organic unity and a few general themes running through it. Remember that your application is your only voice to the admissions officers—make that voice count. Your teachers and interviewer will vouch for you, but your application is your only real chance to speak to the admissions officers and tell them who you are, what’s important to you, what your dreams are. Don’t blow it off and assume you’ll get in anywhere because you have a 2400. It doesn’t work like that.

… And that’s that. At this point, you can’t change the grades you’ve earned or the scores you got. All you can do is put your best foot forward and hope for the best—things have a crazy habit of working out in the end in world of college admissions.

So when you wrap up your applications and hit submit, just breathe. It’ll all be ok.

And puppies make everything better!


(The older younger brother and my actual puppy. This is what I’m missing at home).

24 responses to “How to look over your application and advice about breathing.”

  1. first! you give the best advice ever. great blog.

  2. Anna says:

    Thanks for the entry. smile And cute puppy!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great advices. Thanks!

  4. shraddha says:

    Thanks a

  5. Anonymous says:

    :0 Does that adorable puppy happen to be a standard poodle?

  6. Anoynmous says:

    Is Nov 1st deadline midnight Nov 1st or midnight Oct 31st? XD

  7. Anonymous says:

    That timer is counterproductive and making me freak out! :x

  8. VAL ('14?) says:

    I am, surprisingly, not freaking out. No, my applications are not all done. No, not all of my teacher rec’s are in. But I am fine.

    This posting is still quite soothing, however. Thanks for it. smile

  9. Thanks, Shannon. You give us hope. And strength.

  10. Judy '12 says:

    :O You have a puppy? Whoamg so cute…

  11. Piper '12 says:

    Thing I’m missing from home: horseback riding.

  12. Shannon says:

    @ Anoynmous[sic]- “Matt ’00 replies: You can submit your application any time on Sunday, November 1. I wouldn’t wait until the last minute, but you certainly may.”

    Hope this helps. smile

    @ Anonymous- She is indeed a black standard poodle… she was like, 10 weeks old or so when that picture was taken. SO CUTE.

  13. Those ARE Redwings, aren’t they?

  14. Val'14? says:

    Shouldn’t have clicked the “this much time left”.=0
    Anyways thanks for the suggestions. =)

  15. Lauren says:

    SUBMITTED MY APPLICATION! It’s not like me to submit things early (I was even born late) but I swore I wouldn’t leave my room until the essays were finished and they got done. =P Now I’m trying not to freak out over any mistakes I *might* have made on my application and stay calm for another month and a half. I’m already worried about decisions.

    Anyone else get everything submitted?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thanks a lot, Shannon. You’ve been a big help. Great blog. Actually I’m applying for regular decision but at this rate I’m still freaking out raspberry

  17. It’s really no good to cram especially if you’re looking on an early decision application. smile

  18. Anon says:


    I’m with you on the teacher recs. One of my teachers still hasn’t submitted my early recommendation (I gave it to her a month and a half ago and reminded her last week) and it’s freaking me out. :|

  19. Hahaha, the timer freaked me out a bit too, but I sent the last part of the application a few hours ago. The tips helped a LOT; I was so tired of correcting my own essays that I could not find anything else to tweak.

    Now I can have a stress-free weekend. ‚ô•

  20. Aren’t MIT’s deadlines in MIT’s timezone? (And not UTC?)

    The countdown says I have 5 hours from this point to submit my application, but I don’t think that’s quite correct.

    Though I’m about to send it in like half an hour anyway, just to be safe smile

  21. Anvi says:

    That countdown, however panic-inducing, really helped me get the app in before the maintenance started. smile

    PS: I think the verification-bot could be an excellent indie-band-name-generator.
    Hollowed paper; Poland noon et al.

  22. Blinxer says:


    LOL 2 hrs. till the deadline…I like to cut things close ^^

  23. Jeanne '13 says:

    For everyone worried about teacher recs, don’t sweat it.

    Quote Matt McGann:
    “It is okay if your teacher recommendations are later than the deadline. We are very flexible with your teacher recommendations.”

    So poke your teachers, but you don’t have to stab them in the face. smile