Six months after being a prospective first year myself, my role in the admissions process is about to be reversed. This week, I’ll be hosting a PF for a night, and preparing for this has caused me to think back on the college admissions process. My experience is still fairly fresh because I decided on Macalester at the end of April 2014. There were so many aspects of the process I could have and should have done differently.
When I started to decide where to apply back in the fall of my senior year, I felt very pressured to apply Early Decision to a school. It didn’t matter where, but counselors and other students told me it was a good choice to apply ED. They said that the chance of being accepted ED is significantly higher than being accepted RD (Regular Decision), and the attitude most people seemed to have was ‘why not do it if you can’ rather than ‘only do it if you feel very passionate about a particular place.’ As a result of this perspective, I think I applied to a school ED without thinking deeply enough into my decision. In hindsight, I definitely do not think my ED choice would have been the right place for me, and yet I felt compelled to practically commit to going there anyway. I shouldn’t have rushed into a decision that I was not ready to make solely so I could maybe get my application process done earlier, or maybe get into a big-name school that might have been the wrong atmosphere for me.
Another important aspect of the college process that I could have done differently was managing my time. Because I applied ED, I decided not to work too much on my essays for the schools I planned on applying RD if I didn’t get into my first choice school. This was not a good choice. After I got my early decision back, I was stifled by the sheer amount of writing I had to produce in such a short amount of time. It’s safe to say that December break of senior year was the least fun I’ve ever had on a school vacation. I spent every day of the break laboriously churning out essays. It would have been a great idea to work on them before because I would have had less pressure on me during vacation.
I have to say, though, that I learned a lot from the college application process. Mainly, I discovered that I am really, really bad at writing essays about myself. Every supplemental piece I had to formulate for an application seemed preachy to me, and I didn’t like glorifying myself through writing. And yet, I had to figure out a way to tell each college how great I was without seeming like a self-absorbed idiot. Maybe some people are good at writing in this manner, but I definitely wasn’t. I grew a lot from the denials I got, too. It was a lesson in keeping myself sane; if I took every rejection I got to heart, I would have been absolutely miserable. It was difficult, but I had to think about the decisions I got as unrelated to my personality. Getting denied somewhere didn’t mean I was a horrible person; it just meant the school didn’t think I was right for them.
Not only will I be hosting prospective first-years for Macalester, but I also have two younger siblings who are about to go through this process simultaneously. I really hope I can pass down some of my knowledge about college admissions so that they will feel less overwhelmed by the process. I guess I was the guinea pig of my family, because I didn’t have anyone to give me solid, firsthand advice about the nature of the application process as it is in 2014. However, even without someone to hold my hand and tell me exactly what to do, it turned out for the best—I made it here, after all!