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October 9th, 2009

College Countdown

This Extra Ink was written by Betsy.

Contrary to what you might think, this article isn't just for seniors. Sure, they're the ones who really have college on the brain right now. Sure, they're the ones who are actually, you know, applying. Yeah. I get it. But ask any stressed-out, panicked high school senior, and she or he will tell you they should have started earlier. So no matter where you are in your high school career, read on for some handy-dandy tips to get you safely to the alma mater of your dreams.

For the FRESHMAN: You can kind of chill, but don't neglect your future entirely. Now is the time to start building your extracurricular activities. Think you might major in theater? Make sure you're trying out for the musical or learning how to work the lights. If journalism is your dream, start working your way up the ladder at your school paper. Physics? Hope you're trying for Mathlete status. You get the picture--think about the kind of person you want to be in college, and start turning yourself into that great athlete, student, or performer (heck, all three) that I know you have inside you.

For the SOPHOMORE: Focus on making your GPA all it can be this year. If there are any classes you're struggling with, set up a time to talk with your teacher and address the problems you're having. Alternatively, strike up a conversation with someone who really shines in your worst class--they can give you some tips, and if you make a new friend in the process, that's even better. (Hint: home-baked cookies are excellent for winning friends and gaining tutors.)

For the JUNIOR: While you should still be thinking about your grades and activities, it's time to start picturing yourself as a college student. Think about what you want from your undergrad experience, and make a checklist. Is a traditional campus with ivy halls and grassy quads important to you, or would you prefer high-rise buildings in the big city? Do you want a liberal arts degree, or a specialized one such as engineering or fine arts? Are you more comfortable in small discussion-based classes or large lecture halls? Other options to consider include the social scene (do you want to join a fraternity/sorority?), climate (beaches or ski slopes?), and women's colleges (for about half the people reading this). Know what you want, and start looking for colleges that match your list. Keep an open mind, though--you might be a country bumpkin who falls in love with the city, or you might adore a women's college when you never thought it would be for you.

For the SENIOR: It's go time! If you haven't asked your favorite teachers for recommendations, that should be the first thing on your list--they'll need plenty of time to find the perfect words for just how awesome you are. Finalize the list of schools you're applying to if you haven't already, and fill out the Common Application. Draft and revise your personal statement, and schedule any remaining interviews. Most importantly, remember to give yourself a break, and enjoy your senior year! Your friends are all just as freaked as you are right now, and this is the last year you'll see them every day. It's only by helping your friends, and accepting their support in return, that you'll arrive at graduation sane (and with great senior year memories to boot). Spell-check everything, and send your applications in with time to spare if you can. Breathe in, breathe out, and know that you did your best.

College is amazing, and huge as the application seems, it's only a tiny beginning to four years that will help change you into the adult you'll be for the rest of your life.

If you have questions or ideas about this or any other Extra Ink, e-mail me at betsy@teenink.com.

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