What I learned from the college process

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What I learned from the college process

Assistant Online Editor Mariam Ibrahimi shares what she learned from completing the college process.

Assistant Online Editor Mariam Ibrahimi shares what she learned from completing the college process.

Graphic Kathryn Gowdy

Assistant Online Editor Mariam Ibrahimi shares what she learned from completing the college process.

Graphic Kathryn Gowdy

Graphic Kathryn Gowdy

Assistant Online Editor Mariam Ibrahimi shares what she learned from completing the college process.

Mariam Ibrahimi, Assistant Online Editor

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When you enter high school as a freshman, everybody tells you that junior year is the hardest year. But no one really prepares you for the six months of hell and torture that senior year brings.

While junior year forces you to stay on top of your work and maintain grades and a good GPA all while getting a perfect score on standardized testing exams, senior year is a different kind of torture. Dozens of guidance workshops will tell you what you need to do in order to be successful in applying for college, but they can’t do it for you. You have to do the actual applying and essay writing and colleges visiting.

Applying for college can be one of the most stressful things if you make it be. I’m not here to tell you how to apply for college; that’s what your guidance counselor is for. Having just sent my deposit for the college I will be attending this fall, I sit here reflecting on all the things I wish someone had told me when I applied.

So, without further ado, here are five things I wish I knew before I started the college application process:

1. Take courses you’re actually interested in. Yes, it is important to take courses that demonstrate your excellence and how well you are able to maintain your diligence, but take courses that excite you. Don’t stress yourself with classes that just look good on your resume; take courses that you are genuinely interested in. If you are going to stress yourself, at least do it while you are learning something. If you are interested in AP Art, TAKE IT! If ceramics looks cool, TAKE IT! If BC Calc looks like a fun class, TAKE IT! It is not worth your time to stress yourself in a class that bores you and you do not enjoy. What I’m really trying to say here is: balance your course load. Take some required classes that help your GPA but also take a couple of classes that make you want to come to school to learn.

2. Get yourself a planner or download a planner app on your phone (Planner Pro is a really good app) to schedule the next few months. August to January is a really stressful time if you don’t spread out all the things you have to do. The key to staying sane is not cramming everything into the last week or even month before your due dates. Disclaimer: it’s not as if no one told me not to procrastinate, but I am telling you that they are not kidding. You will hate yourself if you keep procrastinating. Each week give yourself a goal to complete. Whether that be to write one paragraph of your essay or to just write out a list of all your activities throughout high school, doing these small things will help you later.

3. Don’t keep things bottled up, especially from your parents. Have open conversations about college with your family. They are affected by the college application process as well, maybe not the same way you are, but in different ways. It is crucial that you keep your parents in the loop. If you have doubts or are unsure about something, talk to them! I know parents can be annoying at times, and sometimes it feels like they are just another source of your stress, but they are your parents. At the end of the day, it is your decision, but visit colleges with them and ask them about their opinions. Use your older siblings as a resource. They have been in your place before and sometimes they share a perspective you don’t have. I have had a million and one arguments with my parents about college, but I promise you’ll get through it and that it is worth it.

4. Relax. For some kids, that acceptance or rejection is the be-all, end-all. Yes, it may feel that way, but that’s not true. Stress is not good for your mental or physical health, so think twice about worrying yourself about getting into that really expensive school or that Ivy League school. Many people spend their whole lives wanting to go to Harvard; a few may spend four years of high school as an exceptional student and even get in, but that’s not always the reality for everyone. There are hundreds and thousands of students who are just as intelligent and worked just as hard, perhaps even harder than someone who is given acceptance, but the system is a crapshoot. Just because you don’t get into your dream school doesn’t mean your life is over. There are a thousand other options for your success. A college is not better than another just because of its brand name. It is what you make of it, in the end.

5. Now I’m going to contradict myself a little bit here. While it is important to stay on top of things and meet deadlines, sometimes you find what you’re looking for when you’re not even trying to. The college I will be attending is one that I applied for last minute; I literally mean that the day before it was due, I thought ‘Hmm, why not send an application here too.’ Turns out, it was the best fit for me and financially the most feasible. That brings me to another point: prestige isn’t always the best assessor for which colleges fits. You have to look at so many other aspects. Figuring out the best “fit” means understanding where your priorities are. Which school has more diversity or a larger variety of classes? That is something each individual has to figure out for themselves. As my friend Kate said, “It’s the fit, not the prestige.”

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