College Applications: 3 Top Things to Remember
My daughter did not do her laundry or help much around the house her senior year of high school, but I have to say, she aced the college application process. She enjoyed it, and she got into her dream schools. Then as a college student, she worked in the college admissions office and got more insights into the application process. Though I would not enlist her to iron a blouse, there’s no one I trust more on the topic of applying to college. Here’s her advice for high school seniors.
By Taylor Kay Phillips
College application season is upon us, and students across the country are listing their extracurricular activities, trying to show ‘demonstrated interest,’ studying like crazy for standardized tests, and trying to get a handle on the dreaded application essay. It’s a balancing act for both parents and students as they try to navigate the thin line between what they have to show, and what the colleges want to see. Here are three things to remember:
1. Know YOUR answer to the questions the application is asking. This may seem simple and unnecessary, but how many times through this process have you already changed or constructed a response because of what you think the college wants to hear? If they ask your favorite extra-curricular activity, tell them the truth, whether it’s serving on the Student Council or eating donuts at Youth Group – the more specific you get, the more accurate picture you’ll paint of who you are as a person. They don’t want the right answer, they want YOUR answer. Give it to them.
2. The people reading your applications are humans. Yes. It’s true. It may seem like they’re looming, all-powerful, ethereal beings who know all of your secrets and will dictate your future with a swipe of a hand and the swirl of a cape, but they’re not. They’re just people. Admissions officers know that some people find certain subjects easier than others – so it’s okay to say that writing is tough for you but you are the bomb at math. Humans know that people like some parts of things and don’t like other parts – so it’s okay to say that you loved playing basketball but you HATED Saturday morning practices. Colleges know that they’re selecting human beings to attend them, so don’t be afraid to let your personhood show in your application.
Also, being people themselves, admissions officers also need sleep and food and other fun things in their lives – so make your application fun, honest, and straightforward. The quicker they can understand you, the quicker they can give themselves a human break to grab a latte and watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
3. Have fun. Yes, you read that right, and no, I have not gone crazy. College applications get a bad rap because of the anxiety that the whole higher education process causes, but at the end of the day, it can all be a cool opportunity for reflection and storytelling. For the next 3 months, you get to think and talk about yourself almost 24/7! Enjoy asking yourself what your philosophy on life is, enjoy reliving that weird story about family game night, enjoy reflecting on the past 17 years of your life and the person you have become – you may never get to do it again.
I think these tips go for all college applications, but if there’s one thing I learned in college, it’s that I don’t know everything. I recommend two books to accompany you through this senior year process, the first: College Admissions, From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step. It’s practical, up to date, and covers the nuances of all the types of colleges. And, I recommend Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone, to help you lighten up, and to assure your mom that when you leave home so very soon (REALLY, GUYS, THIS YEAR WILL FLY BY) you will know all the things she’s been telling you – while you’ve been pretending to listen but actually waiting for friends to respond to your Snapchats.