Even before I did any of my research for universities, I already had some idea of what I was looking for in a college campus — really active student body with lots of awesome clubs, close to an urban environment, and somewhere that really emphasized practical learning and the application of knowledge– and based on what I’ve heard from older friends and alumni, I started around mid-junior year by just listing out all the colleges that I felt would fit these criteria (around 25). It really ranged across the country (and even across borders!) with Philadelphia, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Nashville being just some of the wide-ranging locations that my colleges were at.
I whittled down the list over the next couple of months through online research of the programs at these Universities, asking my college counselor to connect me to alumni or current students, and just talking it out with my parents: and that helped me pick a list of just under a dozen schools to visit during the summer. I toured 11 schools around the East and West coast, took notes on the academic programs, campus culture, and just overall vibes that I got from the students I met on campus (this really helped me figure out my final school list). By the end of this exploration, I had a solid selection of schools I saw myself enjoying while attending, and I immediately started brainstorming what made me so excited about each of these schools!
I began my app writing in August, and in between the assignments, exams, school, and life, worked on it gradually until the October/November deadlines. It was a slow process of finding hours here and there, but I eventually (cutting it VERY close) finished and submitted my apps on the day it was due! (Pressing the ‘submit’ button was absolutely terrifying) I was fortunate enough to be accepted Early Decision, but that didn’t stop me from writing out all of my other RD essays after I submitted that UPenn application :’)
There’s no doubt that the whole process really sucks 🙁 Just the crazy amount of information that makes it extremely confusing to really know what’s what is really overwhelming. But for me, talking to friends, my college counselor, and students at these universities helped clear up my mind and reaffirm what I want (and what I don’t want).
It’s important to keep in mind that we all struggle through this, and it’s definitely really tough. I have to admit that, even with an early start, I was working on these essays until the very last minute; re-doing essays, editing over and over, and always doubting whether the 500 words on that google doc really reflected all that I am, all that I’ve done, and all that I hope to be. But reading back on my common app and supplemental essays, I can say with 100% confidence that my essays were definitely flawed, and absolutely imperfect in every way. AND THAT IS OKAY. Even as deadlines approach and stress builds, be resilient and focus on yourself! (Diamonds are made under pressure, right?????) It’s gonna be stressful and crazy with a lot you can’t control, but if you focus on your storytelling and the things you can control, and that’s gonna be a major factor in helping you through this difficult season.