How to Survive College Applications

collegeapps (2)

-by Virginia Fuss

As the stress and fast pace of college admissions looms, upperclassmen are dreading the applications, essays, and competition that go with it. You may want to throw your essays into the fire or push your applications through the shredder and enroll in a cheap clown school. However, being a clown won’t really get you anywhere serious in life (pun intended). Here’s how to survive college applications in a simple, direct way.

  1. Start early. It’s okay to be overwhelmed with the amount of work released at the beginning of the school year, but procrastinating due to fear of writing something cruddy or being frustrated at the workload will do nothing for you. Instead, put that first draft down on paper. It may be written with the quality of a kindergartener, but it will become a foundation for the perfect final draft.


  1. Creating a list or calendar plan to space out the workload and narrow down objectives can be the difference between an easygoing year and a frazzled last-minute coffee-fueled late night angst-ridden essay-writing session. Oracle writer Isabelle Mokotoff has this advice about how to handle the stressors of college applications: “I’ve created a spreadsheet on Excel, so that way I can see all the categories and aspects of colleges [and] compare and contrast all the criteria to see which is best for me.” For students like Isabelle, it’s never too early to begin a list or plan, even if you don’t start working on it until later.

  2. For any juniors reading this—do your best on the PSAT/SAT/ACT and other standardized testing. It doesn’t hurt to get a tutor for any areas that you are having difficulties with. Speaking from experience, you will always benefit from touching up on math or sciences, which make up a big part of the tests. It’s always a good idea to start early, and keep in mind that junior year is the most important year of high school. While you should never let extracurriculars, get in the way of grades, make sure to set aside time for other activities you enjoy, whether they are sports or theater, clubs or community service.

  3. Be honest. Know your boundaries, both financially and physically. If tuition will put you in debt for student loans until you are six feet under, college may not be worth it, at least for the time being. More and more students are taking “gap years” or going into the workforce immediately after high school, whether to “find themselves” or to earn some cash.

  4. The same advice applies to physical limits—no one wants greying hair when they’re 18 years old. Don’t lie on your application, because you want to choose a college based on fit, not reputation. With a little help from a parent, teacher, or counselor, an application can be written to make you seem incredible even if you have very little to base it on, while still being true.

  5. Noam Shapiro, a Yale graduate interviewed by MarketWatch, said, “There are so many incredible colleges in America. I encourage students to look beyond the Ivy League and schools that most people know and talk about to find the programs that are right for them.” To choose a school based on prestige or how impressive it is may not be your best bet. Try to base your applications on how much you liked the tour or how well it fits into your passions and financial situation.

  6. Collaborate with others! You won’t have any fun doing the whole process alone. It’s interesting to join forces and see what ideas others have to help develop yours. Sometimes, you may hit a writer’s block and become frustrated or bored, and conversing with friends or even a tutor will help you push that wall down with new ideas.

Essentially, by following these tips, all your brain cells may still be intact by the end of the application process. You will definitely need those when you get into your dream college!



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