Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tips For High School Seniors

I've been doing a lot of reflecting lately on where I was a year ago - about to start school having barely dipped my toe in the waters of applying to college, and full of wonder as to what the future would hold for me. I have less than one week until I move into school and it still doesn't feel real to me. As I get closer and closer to move-in day, I keep thinking more about all the work that got me here. Senior year was a big year in many ways. Despite going through the college process and taking difficult classes, I also had more fun than I did any other year in high school. Back in November, after I submitted my first round of applications, I wrote about 5 Things I learned through the college process. Last night I re-read through them and they still totally ring true, but now that I am about to be an official college student, I wanted to give some advice not only on applying to college, but making the most out of your senior year. (Because even though graduation seems forever away you're going to blink and it will all be over.) 

Trust the process: I'd be lying if I said I didn't stress to the max during my senior year. My anxiety was through the roof and the week before I was waiting for one of my early admission letters to come in the mail I barely even ate (and then I got deferred). After hearing back from that first round of applications though I felt a little bit more relieved. I still had yet to receive a definite no, but after surfing the tidal wave of waiting for letters to come in the mail once, I felt like I could do it again (this time without starving). The second time around my motto was to "trust the process." Everyone had told me this from the beginning, but it's definitely a lot easier said than done. To be honest, just thinking about the emotions I had while waiting to find out if I had been accepted to the schools I applied to is making my eyes well up. The beauty of trusting the process is that you can find a little bit of relief reminding yourself that a) once you have submitted your applications it is completely out of your control so it's a waste of energy to stress and b) at the end of the day you will end up at the place that is right for you.

Stay on top of things: Even though I stressed a lot during senior year, looking back at it, it really wasn't as bad as people had made it sound. I tend to stress about things that are out of my control, so my stress really wasn't about the work itself. Part of what kept me from stressing about the work was a) I was willing to put in the necessary effort to get the best result I could possibly produce and b) I stayed on top of everything. I made sure that I finished all my apps, supplements, and essays with ample time (usually around four days) before the deadline so I didn't panic at the last minute and rush to get things done. My college counselor drilled this into my head: "Deadlines are not due dates." While due dates are often flexible and you can sometimes get around them, deadlines are not and colleges will have no sympathy if you try to submit you application at on January 16th instead of January 15th. 

Get things done early: Besides staying on top of things, it's also important to finish things early. I had every single application done and submitted by December 28th because I wanted to be able to start the New Year with college applications behind me. This wasn't as hard as it sounds to do either! The Common Application makes it really easy, and once you've done one or two apps you'll be like a pro. I definitely recommend trying to finish before New Years though because I felt so relieved being able to prepare for my finals with one less thing on my plate. (Also you'll feel really good about yourself when everyone else is jealous that you are done :) You don't want to look back on the last half of senior year (the most fun half) and instantly think of college applications! Just get them done! 

Actually do your school work: Senior year grades count - especially first semester. It's so easy to neglect you school work when you've got a whole other load of essays to do on top of it all, but really you have to do your homework (and go to class). If a college is considering you, your first semester grades are the most current indicator of the kind of student you are and they can really make or break you. Try and aim for an upward trend in your report cards because colleges love to see steady improvement. I can not stress enough how important it is to try your best during senior year. Even when second semester rolls around and you feel like you're done, don't. stop. trying. Second semester does matter to colleges and they will rescind your acceptance if they see a significant drop in grades. 

Push yourself: It's easy to play it safe and only apply to schools you think you will get into, but part of building a successful college list is choosing one or two reach schools. A reach school isn't necessarily applying to an ivy league though. A reach school should be a school who generally accepts students with higher statistics than yours but otherwise would be a perfect match. For me, those were Boston College, Georgetown and USC. In the end, I ended up getting rejected to BC and Georgetown and accepted to USC, which was my first choice anyways. (It's funny because I actually enrolled to USC before I had even received my letters back from BC and Georgetown). I can't imagine what I would have been thinking if I hadn't gone out on a limb and applied to them though, even though I ended up not getting in to two of them, I think if I hadn't given it the chance there would have always been a looming "what if" going through my head. 

Make memories: This sounds totally cliché, but senior year is full of the best memories in high school! I made my strongest friendships, went on the best adventures, and made the most amazing memories. Part of making these memories was pushing myself out of box. Some of my most memorable moments from the year were when I was completely out of my comfort zone, but ended up having more fun than I ever would have expected! As important as it is to do your college applications and get good grades in school, it is equally as important to make time for friends and having fun. If you manage your time well, then it will be so easy! You're only going to be a high school senior once and for a lot of friendships it will be your last big hurrah before you guys go separate ways, so really make the most of it. 

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