Tips to Survive Application Season

Three years ago I was waiting for my Early Decision letter from Swarthmore. “Will I get in?” was almost all I could think about from the minute I submitted the application in mid-November—pervading my Thanksgiving vacation and fall musical rehearsals. Looking back, I wish I spent more time enjoying my Senior Fall rather than stressing about admissions decisions. I know it’s annoying, but listen to people who have gone through the process and they may give you this one tip: what’s meant to happen will happen.

I know that this tip is vague and could be hard to digest, so here are three tips that might help you all through what seemed to be (for me at least) the most stressful part of my short 18 years on Earth.

These tips do not include my tip to myself to stop wearing baggy cardigans with pastel shorts and knee high Nike socks. But hey, it’s the Big Chair!

TIP #1:

Reach out to professors and students at each of your favorite schools.

I wish I knew that there are so many resources at each college to help prospective students. Professors aren’t (usually) scary people and most welcome emails from prospective students. I won’t forget my advisor telling me excitedly one day that a prospective student from one of my tours emailed her to ask about one of her classes and academic life at Swarthmore. Most Swatties genuinely love to talk about our College, so don’t be afraid to ask. You have nothing to lose, and everything you learn can be used in your application! But more importantly, looking deeper than the admissions brochures will help you make the most informed college decision possible.

TIP #2:

You don’t have to tell everyone you know everything about your college applications. 

At my high school, some seniors couldn’t stop talking about which schools they were applying to, how much they were spending on applications, how hard the essays were…the list goes on. They shared everything. I can’t imagine that this was cathartic for them, and it actually stressed me out more. Applying to colleges is a personal process, so don’t feel pressured to tell everyone everything all the time. And in the same vein as this, don’t be afraid if you’re spending less time on applications than your peers. Everyone works differently, and it’s not a competition for who spends the most time logged into Common App. 

TIP #3:

Write about things you love. It’ll make it easier.

I did many college essay workshops in high school, from my junior year English class to meetings with my high school counselor. Some of them told us things admissions offices wanted to hear—write about volunteer work, or your trip overseas, or a hardship you faced. The problem was…I didn’t love writing about any of those and none of those practice essays seemed like me. So I listened to my theater teacher who told me to write about what I love. I wrote about two of the things closest to me: my family and theater. Both of these things defined me and I wanted the admissions office to know about that, rather than me trying to squeeze out an impersonal essay about something I thought they wanted. And when I switched to this mindset, the words flowed out of me. It’s so much easier to write an essay about things you’re truly passionate about, even if they might seem silly. Being someone you’re not will stress you out more during an already stressful time, so take off some stress and have fun writing about what you love!

I was in tech week for my fall musical while I waited for my admissions decision, and that experience really reaffirmed my decision to write about theater!

All of these tips relate to one word: relax! Of course, meet the deadlines and fill out the applications, but find little ways to make each application less stressful. Enjoy your senior year because it’s probably going to be the last extended amount of time at home; spending a significant chunk of that on your computer probably isn’t the best. If you have any other questions, need more relaxation advice, just want to ask about Swarthmore, or need help finding a professor’s email, shoot me a message at!

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