Don't Stress Out

October 5, 2011
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You are the captain of the cross country team. You play the piano and the oboe. You have all A’s and you are taking the most rigorous course load that the high school offers. You have spent your Saturday mornings preparing for the SAT’s and you end up getting over 2100. You even have some time to squeeze in a few clubs like Habitat for Humanity, Key Club, and the Science Olympiad.
Where do expect those things to get you?
Maybe you want to go to Harvard, Yale, or MIT. Maybe you want to go to the best university in your state. Unfortunately for you, they receive thousands of applications that look almost identical. How do you stand out from the crowd of applicants with the same background, the same academic achievement, and the same test scores as yours?
The most important factor in the college application process is the college essay (a.k.a. the dreaded personal statement). Many high school seniors stress out about this because they can’t think of a perfect topic to write about. Or maybe they want to write about many things but have a hard time picking just one. Here is a solution: brainstorm a list of topics you want to write about. Write rough drafts for each topic. Have someone read each essay and pick the best one. Once you’ve picked your best essay, proofread, proofread, proofread. Revise and edit your essay until you are absolutely sure that it will grab that tired admission officer’s attention.
Remember that admission officers have thousands of essays to read. Make yours stand out. Make them see you as a real person, not just as a number or a list of accomplishments.
Finally, you have submitted your application and essay(s). Now you need recommendations from teachers, counselors, and possibly activity sponsors. Pick someone who knows you well enough that he/she can write about you as a person rather than the typical “hard-working student who shows academic promise.” Teachers should write about how you developed as a student and a person throughout the year. They should write about things that would not be found in the rest of the application. They should write about how your interest in a certain subject would benefit you in your chosen field.
Even if you don’t have amazing activities or the best transcript on the block, don’t despair. There are thousands of wonderful universities that you can apply to. Who says only the Ivies give the best education? Our society tends to view quality based on the brand-name label, and not on the product itself. Don’t be ashamed to apply to a less prestigious university. Employers hire you based on your skills and what you have done rather than on the prestige of your school. If you are an outstanding student at a less prestigious school, you’ll stand out more to the faculty. Plus, you’ll feel much better about yourself than if you went to an Ivy League school and struggle to keep up with the rest of the geniuses.
Please, don’t lose any sleep over worrying about college. It doesn’t matter what college you go to as long as you are willing to work hard, learn, and gain some valuable skills. Success is not defined by prestige. What you do and what you accomplish in the real world can reveal your destiny.

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xoemmaox said...
Nov. 20, 2011 at 9:36 am
Thank you for this article! It has truly  helped me see a different side to the whole college thing. 
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