You’d think trying was enough, but no. College. It is somewhere I haven’t gotten to yet, but I’m in the process of applying. I’d like to share a couple of things with you guys who may be somewhere a bit earlier in the process than me. These are the things I wish someone told me.
- There is always someone who is going to be smarter than you and have it easier than you. Some of your friends may be applying to Ivy Leagues. That’s great! Wish them the best, and focus of yourself. If you’re that kid, the one that gets straight A’s in all the hardest classes without trying very hard (I know a few of these), congratulations. If you’re like me, and you’re not that kid, but you are dedicated to your future, don’t sweat it. Do the best you can knowing that there is only so much you can do. Don’t hate yourself for having a lower GPA than some other people. You are going to end up at a school that is academically fit for you. And truthfully, if you don’t get into one of your schools, it was probably not the best fit for you. You will end up where you belong.
- This is not the final round. If you don’t get into your dream school, IT’S OK. If you have your heart so set on it, you can always try to transfer once you are already in college. Persistence is key.
- Those damn test scores. I’m saying what we’re all thinking: whoever came up with standardized testing is Satan. Unless you are the kid from #1. on my list. Then you probably think standardized testing “is easy” or you always “get lucky.” But for the rest of us, yes it sucks. I really want to emphasize to all of you rising juniors, get in the game early. First, figure out which test is best suited for you, ACT or SAT. Then, if you are able to, get tutored for the SAT or ACT over the summer going into junior year. The timing is perfect because while it is not a fun thing to do with your summer, it reduces the stress of getting tutored and balancing it with your 5-7 other classes during the school year. If you can’t get tutored, sign up for something like khan academy (it’s free) where you practice a little bit everyday. Take the first SAT or ACT offered in your junior year. Then maybe skip one test date and take the next one. Then take it a third time. Whatever you do, don’t just take it once, even if you are satisfied with your score. If you do, you will end up wondering Where would I be at if I took it again and got an even better score? Did I sell myself short?
- Work on college essays as soon as the prompts come out. Once again, this will save you from stressing during the school year. For common app, they were released early in the summer, and the app opens august 1st.
- Pick your colleges sorta early but not too early. Don’t waste your time thinking about colleges you want to go to as a freshman, unless you’re unusually intelligent or the aspiration of getting into a certain school will drive you to increase your GPA. You don’t really know who you will be in 4 years or what your grades and test scores are going to look like. Work hard in school and start looking into colleges at the end of sophomore year. This way, you will know how much you will have to increase/maintain your GPA to get into those schools and what test scores you will need to strive for. During junior year, hone your list so you don’t have 5 billion trillion zillion schools to apply to. Once you’re in summer before senior year, you should have a pretty concrete list of schools you’re applying to. Make sure on that list you have at least 1 reach, target, and safety school.
- Don’t choose your future blindly. Too many people follow the crowd. So many students just go to schools because they’re well-known or a lot of people they know are going there. To somewhat of a degree, I think going to a well established school is beneficial, but just because something is popular doesn’t mean that you will actually like it. You need to research the colleges you are thinking about applying to. Find out what they’re known for and what they lack. Research alumni and what fields of study they are known for. You may not know what you want to major in, but you probably have an idea of what you like. If you’re an english person, don’t apply to a school that is only known for its math department. Also, research the social scene, size, and location of your school. If you are able to, take a tour. If not, take a virtual tour.
- Don’t regret. I had a semester where I really lost focus on school and got caught up in the social scene. It brought down my GPA a lot, and I got my first and only B- in my life. For a while I would look at my cumulative GPA and cringe, because my grades from that semester brought me down so much, but the truth is I can’t do anything about it now. So just let go of what you can’t fix and focus on improving what you can.
- Find out what you really enjoy. This is something that people say all the time, but never actually do. So many adults work their nine to fives at a company they hate, not being efficient because they can’t stand their jobs. Therefore, they never get much done for their employer or move up in their job position and remain stagnant for the rest of their lives. Sound familiar? It’s the premise of the show The Office and probably, to some degree, why it’s so popular and relatable to such a large demographic. Best case-scenario, you get a job you are good at and hate, but at least you make a ton of money, though you hate every moment of making it, and therefore spend 5-6 out of 7 days of the week waiting for the weekend, wishing your life away. Why would you do this if you could just pursue something you actually enjoy? So what if you’re not wealthy? At least you will be happy! Plus if you do something you love, you are pretty much destined for success, because of how much time you will spend doing it. You have to be willing to give up the promise of a stable mediocre life to get the risky rewarding life. So try to find your passions while you are in high school. You already subconsciously know them. They are the things you do with your free time, the things you want to do without anyone telling you or asking you to do them. Once you find them, focus on improving them and making connections in those fields. Also, colleges take interest in passionate people who are confident in what they want to do. It makes you less of a risk to change your mind and shows you have personal initiative.
I know it’s a stressful topic and something you generally want to push to the back of your mind and ignore, but it is something that needs to be addressed. Do your best to represent yourself with a high GPA and test scores and then let it go. I know it is easier said than done, but just have faith in yourself and the people who are going to be looking at your application. If you don’t get to go where you wanted to go, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I’m not a big believer in fate, but in this circumstance I think everything works itself out as it should be.
Good luck my friends,