It’s that time of year when the seasons are in transition between autumn and winter (wintumn? auter?), and also that time of year when high school seniors are preparing their college applications. Many personal statements/recommendation letters/score reports are streaming through Common App. It’s a tough time of year for everyone and I completely sympathize. My younger brother is in the process of applying right now, so I thought I would put together some advice in a timeline of sorts of how the application process was like for me.
Symptoms of the application process include: feeling drowned in work, feeling stressed, and feeling like you can’t fit your life into 500 words or less.
Cures: take a deep breath, reach out to your friends/family/mentors, and know that everything will be alright.
The Five Stages
1. Shock and Denial
Maybe this stage hits everyone at a slightly different time. For me, it was the spring of my junior year and I was in the middle of doing tours of different college campuses. The shock came when I realized exactly how much effort the application process would be, and the denial came immediately afterwards. To make it less stressful, I started researching schools early on and tried figuring out which would be good places for me. It also helps to talk to your parents, older siblings, and mentors because they understand how overwhelming the process is and are always willing to listen.
2. Early Preparations
After researching, I came up with a list of about 12 schools: a couple safeties, eight “good fits,” and a couple reaches. One of these “good fits” stood out from the rest, and that was Swarthmore. I thought about it for a long time, and finally decided that I loved the atmosphere of Swarthmore so much that I should apply Early Decision, which, *spoiler alert*, ended up being the best decision I made.
3. In the Work Grind
Writing personal statements, asking for recommendations, submitting extracurricular information, going to interviews, etc. Besides college applications, I was also applying for scholarships to ease the financial burden of four years of tuition. The pressure was a lot to handle, so my tips here are: start filling out applications early, break your essay-writing into chunks, and always ask for help if you need it! My essays went through many pairs of eyes before I hit the “submit” button, and I’m glad other people could help me see whether my writing reflected my personality.
You’ve submitted everything you possibly needed to submit, so congratulations! A rush of relief! All the hard work is finished, and now is the time to give yourself time to relax and to keep yourself hopeful. Three years ago in mid-December, I hesitantly opened a very thin envelope addressed from Swarthmore’s Admissions Office…and found out that I was accepted!
5. The Art of Choosing
Even though the stress of applications might seem like it’ll drag on forever, don’t worry too much – you will find a place for you. Looking back, I am so happy I chose Swarthmore. Here, I find myself surrounded by hardworking professors, intellectually curious classmates, and a caring community. There is something special about Swarthmore that is hard to define, and that special feeling is different for everyone. In any case, things will work out in the end. I’m sure of it. Best of luck to all! (: