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).