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Panic Like You Mean It This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Fall of senior year can only mean one thing: college applications. Whether they’re considering MIT, UConn, or Kalamazoo, college-bound seniors are feeling the burn of the workout this process has become. SATs are either over or looming on that murky horizon, weighing down our minds like bad burritos in our stomachs. Warning: Only ask about our scores if you’re prepared to face hysterical screaming.

We’ve all slapped those wide-eyed, puppy-dog expressions onto our faces to ask favorite teachers for letters of recommendation: Please, please will you tell my 17 schools how amazing, talented, dedicated, and – eh-hem – hard-working I am? Please? I promise I’ll buy you a Bucky Badger mascot if I get into U Wisconsin.

And don’t even get me started on the nightmare that is the admissions essay. Five hundred words? Are they for real? How can 500 words adequately tell Princeton about my ability to eat marshmallow sandwiches while jumping rope backward or describe my life-changing experience as a summer counselor at Camp Mikkiwooki? I mean Makkywookai. Shoot. What was it again?

Five hundred words … 500 words … 500 words … If you’re panicked, ill-prepared, worthless, exhausted and you know it, clap your hands!

I think I really have found the perfect essay topic: My science teacher’s hair loss as a metaphoric social commentary on the effects of global warming. It’s going to be awesome. Just you wait.

Before this year, I hadn’t realized how strong a grip this whole process would actually have on my life. During my volleyball game yesterday, the scoreboard read: Hyde 22, Valley 9. All I could think was “Georgetown, Harvard. Georgetown, Harvard.” Freaking acceptance rates – 22 percent? Maybe 9 percent? You’d have to be an Olympic medalist with a 2390 SAT and an exceptional ability to play the bassoon.

Is it pathetic that I’ve begun to see acceptance rates everywhere? I even failed Monday’s calculus quiz because I wrote Swarthmore’s acceptance rate instead of the derivative of x2 – 7.

Shoot. Columbia definitely won’t accept me now.

On a similar note, I’m giving up my Columbus Day weekend to visit three colleges in three states in four days. I don’t even want to go anymore, but if I back out now, I think my mom will eat me.

“Mi stress-ah es su stress-ah.”

I do feel bad for dragging my parents into this whole application mess, but it’s their fault for being so darn supportive. They never should have bought me that Baby Einstein video. It only got my hopes up.

This morning as I sat strangling my stuffed giraffe (Gilbert hates it when I go into Anxiety Freak-Out Mode), I realized that this college stuff might have been easier to swallow if I had been given some realistic advice before the process began. With that in mind, I will diverge from my ranting and raving to impart two tips upon those who have not yet experienced a Collegeboard.com-induced mental breakdown.

First of all, it’s a good idea to start looking for colleges early. Way early. Like, you should have started when you were three. (Everyone’s first words are “I wanna go to Ursinus,” aren’t they?)

Start preparing early too: Take the PSATs twice, it helps. Study constantly, it helps. Play sports and be a school leader, those things help.

In reality, though, you’d probably have the best chance of being accepted if you dropped out of school entirely and turned your dad’s old DeLorean into a time machine. Stanford would have to take you then.

My second piece of advice: Panic! I went about this process all wrong – I tried to remain calm. I’m sure you can see how well that worked out. I hypothesize that if you panic now – yes, even you teeny, tiny freshmen who have yet to discover the wonders of U.S. News & World Report – you will be completely panicked-out by senior year, leaving nothing to feel but calm. Either that, or you’ll be so used to that I-can’t-breathe/I’m-gonna-hurl feeling that when it’s 1 a.m. and you still have three applications left, it will only take you five minutes (rather than 30) to pull yourself together, wake up your brother, and pay him to check the appropriate boxes for you.

As for my fellow seniors, all I can say is this: Get your homework done, your essays outlined, and your SATs taken. Stay on your guidance counselor’s and teachers’ good sides. (Definitely don’t make jokes about their balding in public.)

Enjoy your last year in high school while you can. Don’t be too easy on yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself either. (Anyone know how many days are left until graduation?)

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

supra said...
Nov. 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm:
Senior here...this is the truth.
 
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Phoenixx said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 10:05 pm:
Aha, I usually don't go into this section on teenink, but i absoloutly loved your title, it was captivating at the first moment, and i just kept reading. I loved how you added humour into your article. Its GREAT! I was into this the whole time. Thanks for your advice to :P
 
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blues_are.still_blue said...
Feb. 19, 2011 at 11:39 pm:
Junior here. The panic kicked in a while ago. I can practically list the top 50 schools off the top of my head. Maybe if i had spent more time studying instead of obsessing over college acceptance stats, i'd have better than a 2120 SAT.
 
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Lola. said...
Aug. 27, 2010 at 4:47 am:
I loved it! Not only is it humorous but it totally shows how people feel in their senior year. Going to be a soph. soon. Eek! You really scared me! I think I really will follow your advice about starting to panic early. Haha :P
 
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