COLLEGE APPLICATION TIMELINE (SENIOR YEAR) - part 1
So as a survivor of the American college application process, I was requested by a couple people like @breakfast-n-books to do a masterpost on any tips I had for applying to college. So here’s my organized student’s guide on how to apply for college.
DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert and everything I’ve written here is from my own experience so it may not apply to you if you aren’t planning on applying to a lot of traditional universities through Common App like I did. Also, a lot of the process is also changing like they’re introducing a new version of Common App called the Coalition, so I’m not sure how much of this will still be viable but let’s just get into it.
EA: Early Action. Allows you to apply to a school earlier so you hear back earlier, usually in December instead of March. You might get a slight advantage in applying earlier since the application pool is smaller so if you know that that school is your dream school, go for it. It’s also not binding so you can change your mind if you do get accepted. You can apply to as many schools EA as you want.
ED: Early Decision. Same as early action but it is binding. That means if you get accepted, you have to go, regardless of financial aid or anything else, so make sure you know that you love that school and you have the financial means to go if accepted. You also can only apply to one school ED since it is binding. However you can apply to other schools EA while still applying to one ED.
EA-Restricted: Same as Early Action, except there will be restrictions on other schools that you can apply to early. Usually, it means you can only apply to one private school early, but can apply to as many public schools early as you want. The decision is not binding.
Rolling Admissions: There is no hard deadline for submitting applications so the sooner you submit, the sooner you get a decision back. Usually public schools have these kinds of deadlines.
Deferred: When you apply for a school early but they decide not to accept you at the early decision day. It means they’ll put your application with the rest of the regular applications to see how you measure up compared to them. You still have a chance to get accepted regular.
Waitlisted: Happens during regular decisions. It means they don’t have enough space for you in their incoming class at the moment, but if enough people decline to go to that school, you might be accepted (get off the waitlist). Different than deferred since deferred only applies to schools EA/ED.
Common App:soul-sucking website that you will be on 24/7 for the next 6 months Allows you to apply to multiple colleges at once with one essay (the Common Essay) and one resume. However, a lot top schools require you to write additional essays (called supplemental essays) that are school specific and will only be sent to that school.
A P R I L / M A Y
Ask your teachers and guidance counselors for recommendations. Make sure to ask in person and also be prepared to give them a “brag packet” (basically a resume) to help them write their recommendations.
Pick a teacher that likes you or at least knows something about you. If you have a teacher who was also an advisor for a club you were in, great!
Do not get more than the recommended number of recommendations unless those other recommendations can say something else about you that your teacher ones can’t (like a coach or different instructor who’s known you for a really long time). Admission officers have a ton of papers to read so every single piece of paper you’re adding to their pile better be significant or they will not be happy.
J U N E / J U L Y
Start drafting a list of colleges that you think you’re going to apply to and visit them if you can. Visiting colleges lets you get a better feel for the campus and also shows “demonstrated interest”, letting the admissions officers know that you are genuinely interested in their university. If you can’t physically visit, email their admissions office saying that you’re interested and ask them if they can give you any tips on making your application successful and/or send you any material to help you learn more about their school.
Start looking through Common App and drafting your answers, but DO NOT write anything in Common App yet. Save everything on a Google Doc or Word document because the system will erase everything at the end of July to prepare itself for the next year.
A U G U S T
Get a general idea of the requirements of the schools you’re applying to and their deadlines.
Make sure you have all the required tests, recommendations, etc.
If you’re applying to special programs like 7 year medical programs, they may have different requirements/deadlines than the regular undergraduate school, so please check. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email or call the admissions officers.
Create a Common App account and start working on your essays and resume.
Create a Google Doc for all of your essays/supplementals.
Create a spreadsheet for all of the colleges you’re applying to, their requirements, and their deadlines.
When you’re an astronaut, you have to work and live with your crew mates for extended periods of time. It’s important to the mission and your safety that everyone can collaborate and work together.
2. You LOVE Space
If the Milky Way, planets and space travel doesn’t excite you then this might not be the perfect job for you. But if you love galaxies, space station research and deep space exploration, then maybe you should take a look at our application.
3. Adventure Doesn’t Scare You
Being an astronaut means that you get to take part in adventures that most people will never experience. Imagine: sitting on the launch pad in the Orion spacecraft, atop a rocket that’s getting ready to launch. You’ll travel farther into space than any other humans have been and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space lunar orbits, leading the way for future missions to Mars.
4. You Want to be on the Cutting Edge of Science
Not only do astronauts get to travel to space, but they also get to conduct really cool research in microgravity. Did you know that right now they’re growing Zinnia flowers on the International Space Station? This research could help with our future deep space exploration and could teach us a few things about growing plants on Earth. Learn more about all the awesome research on the space station HERE.
5. You’re Not Afraid of Heights
One of the coolest things about being an astronaut, is that you get to go to SPACE! At the very least, you’ll travel to the International Space Station, which is 250 miles above Earth. Or, you could be one of the first astronauts to travel to a distant asteroid or even Mars!
Interested in applying to become an astronaut? You’re in luck, applications open Dec. 14! Learn about some common myths about becoming an astronaut HERE.
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Age (don’t wanna feel like a pedo):
Gender (or identity):
Can you keep a conversation going?:
Do you text often?:
Can we text whenever?:
Would you ever text me first?:
CAN YOU KEEP A CONVERSATION GOING?
So I recently got a request to do an in-depth post on how to write the ‘why us’ college essay. I know I struggled a bit with this type of essay and hopefully this post will help you guys out.
1) DO NOT USE THE SAME ESSAY FOR ALL YOUR SCHOOLS
Just don’t do it. I think it’s one of the worst things you can do to show interest. Chances are, if you’re reusing the same essay for all your schools, you haven’t done your research and aren’t committed. This essay could be the factor that switches you from the reject or waitlist pile to the accepted pile. Think about it, if you had too similar candidates, both were strong in all aspects but one of them showed a lot of interest in the school in the ‘why us’ essay, who would you pick? Colleges can even pick the ‘weaker’ candidate who shows more interest because they want people who are committed to their school and are willing to matriculate. Show them that you’re committed and write different essays for each school.
2) DO YOUR RESEARCH
This means more than looking on U.S. News to check the college’s ranking and other mundane facts that are easily accessible. You want to demonstrate genuine interest in the college and not be superficial. Make a document and just bullet out all of the research for each school. Here are some things that should be included in your research:
Campus Visits: This is one of the other uses college visits have besides assessing fit. Did you visit the campus over the summer and fall in love with it? Indicate it in your essay. If the rural or urban setting plays a big role in campus life, then definitely mention how that came to play in your decision. For example, a school like Columbia or UChicago, both of which are deeply intertwined with their respective cities or a school like Dartmouth which is also very dependent on its location. Talk about that one gelato shop on campus that you fell in love with or the nature trails you visited etc.
Professors: Another indicator of interest. Ideally, you should have met with a professor on your campus visit. But this discussion should have been more than just a ‘hello’ and shaking of hands. Don’t name drop professors if you’ve never interacted with them and know nothing about what they really do. Only include talking to professors if you’ve discussed their subject matter or something else meaningful with them. If you haven’t had the chance to meet professors, fear not! This is what google’s for. Look at the listings of professors for your prospective major. Take a few minutes of your time to browse their websites and see what classes they teach, what books/articles they’ve written, what ideas they’ve pioneered. In my Why UChicago essay, I quoted a French professor who compared people to chess pieces (my interests are French and chess). It doesn’t have to be something monumental, it just has to show that you’ve taken the time to explore the school and prospective major you’ve chosen.
Alumni: If you know anyone who attended the school you’re applying to and they’ve helped you choose the school or learn more about it. You could mention them in your essay. Talk about what characteristics you see in them that make them successful at X College and how you exemplify those traits. Did you have an interview with this college before you submitted your application? Mention some of the stuff your interviewer talked about. Again, this shows that you’ve taken the time to explore and are dedicated to the school.
Majors: Look at the website for the department of your intended major and see what they offer that makes them unique. Look at the history of the school you’re applying to with respect to your intended major. What makes this school unique? For example, the University of Michigan was one of the first schools to have computers on campus and they have a long history of a strong computer science program. The computer language BASIC was invented on Dartmouth’s campus. Little facts like this show that you’re interested. Don’t just list the facts because then they become trivial and they lose their meaning in the context of your essay. Tie the facts in to your desire to become a computer science major since you were ten when you built a computer from scratch with your dad. Since then you’ve learned numerous programming languages and have attended numerous computer science camps and it would really help your education to study at a university that’s been a pioneer in this domain for decades. If you don’t know your major, look at what departments you’re interested in and pick the one you like most and relate that to your life.
Programs/Extracurriculars: Does your school have a unique program that would help further your academic or extracurricular pursuits? Mention it in context to your life. For example, UChicago’s unique Careers in Law and Careers in Medicine programs which help undergrads attend lectures and seminars, get grad school application help, and get good internships in their desired fields of law or medicine. Did you attend a Model UN conference on the college’s campus and realize that you wanted to be a part of this college’s award winning Model UN team? Mention it. Did you attend a summer program or summer school at this college where you were exposed to the campus, professors, current students, alumni etc. and fell in love? Mention it. Does this college offer a unique study abroad opportunity that you just have to go on? Mention it. These are just some examples of the stuff you can mention on this essay. Look beyond academics and see what this college offers that others don’t.
Those Pamphlets You Have Under Your Bed: Now’s the time to dig up all that college mail and college emails from this college that you’ve received over the years and reread it. Look for the obvious stuff like programs and academics but also on how the college describes itself. Is the college very academically oriented or is it athletically driven. What profile does your college fit and how do you fit in? Look up the college’s motto, mascot, fight song etc. and relate them to your life. College mail is usually a good indicator of how the college views itself and use this in your essay.
Miscellaneous: Does this college have any unique traditions that you’d like to be a part of? For example the UChicago scavenger hunt. It doesn’t have to be that big but it could be small, like the $1 smoothie Wednesdays and the free tea and cookies every day at a certain time (I forget when) in one of Dartmouth’s libraries. A simple google search can give you this information. There are also unofficial sayings that go around that could be used in your essay, such as “Where fun goes to die” to describe UChicago. Look up the unique tidbits that don’t make it on the website or pamphlet.
Now that you’ve done all the brunt work, it’s time to organize it all into a concise but interesting essay. The key here is to be interesting and not just list the facts; relate it to you. Weave in one of your interests of hobbies with the ‘Why Us’ part and show how those two pieces complement each other. This is where I would recommend you check out some of the Why UChicago essays people have posted on college confidential. This is the only time I would ever tell you to use that website because it’s toxic but the UChicago people are some of the most unique and creative people I’ve seen and their essays are brilliant. Look at how they weave their interests with the why us narrative to get a good essay. **** This is probably obvious to almost everyone but I’m going to say it, don’t copy their ideas. Use them as inspiration but don’t do anything remotely similar. Plagiarism has serious consequences including a rescinding of your acceptance **** They make it into a story and this is what you should strive to do. If you can do it successfully, it will set you apart from the pack and increase your odds of acceptance. In my ‘Why UChicago’ essay, I related the notation of a really good move in chess with attending UChicago. It made my essay unique and related my personality and interests with the school (I got accepted if you’re wondering). The key is to outline the research you’ve done in a way that makes it easy for the readers to see how you’d fit in with the college. As I’ve said before, don’t let them make assumptions because they’ll assume wrong and it will hurt your application. Help them help you.
Once you’ve written a draft of the essay you’re happy with, revise, revise, revise. The four draft rule I mentioned in my other college essay post is still valid. Shoot for four drafts to make sure your essay is solid. Things to look for while revising can be found here in my other college essay post. There’s also the informal word limit I mentioned: shoot for less than 650 words because the college admissions people are reading hundreds of essays a day and they will most likely not read your essay in its entirety if you go over 650 words. Being concise is key. As always, don’t name drop and list facts, INTEGRATE them and explain them. Colleges know what’s on their website but how is it relevant to you? The college application process is about you.
Well, I hope this helped you guys write a strong ‘Why Us’ college essay. Hit up my ask if you have any questions and good luck!
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Totally, 10+ years of effort has been put into the R&D.
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