college application

How to get straight A’s in college. Seriously.

Yes, even if you’re taking the maximum credit load. Because if I can do it, you can do it too. Note: My credit load also included a handful of honors courses. 

Side-note: I’m going to be a junior (how??) and an RA (!!!) in the fall. Life moves fast. College moves faster. Anyways, 

Here are my top tips: 

1. LOOK AT THE SYLLABUS AND WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. This is step number one, and it’s not up for debate. If you do this, there’ll be no surprises, and if there are: point it out to the professor (a simple, ??? this wasn’t on the syllabus ??, usually works). Also, you have to check and see what constitutes as an A in that class. Sometimes it’s a 90, sometimes it’s not. (a 96 was an A- in one of my classes last semester. I’m so serious.)

2. Get a calendar. Not a planner. One of those giant calendars with puppies or something on it and write down everything you have to do for the month. Put it above your desk. This helps A LOT because you can see everything you have coming up for the next few weeks, instead of jus playing it day-by-day. 

3. It is OK to use ratemyprofessor. Sometimes it can be really helpful, but pay attention to the more in depth reviews that talk about what the homework, tests, quizzes and projects are like (instead of “her lectures are boring :///) 

4. Sit in the front of your class. You’ll be more likely to pay attention and less likely to scroll through instagram. (by the way, mine is @parissdb :) It also grabs your professors attention, so even if you’re shy, they’ll at least know your face.

5. Do that extra credit. A lot of professors offer it in the beginning of the semester, and hardly anyone does it because no one’s thinking past tomorrow. It may be what saves you in the long run. 

6. Figure out your best method of note-taking. For me, it’s good ol pen and paper. It helps me remember everything. Some people prefer typing it out. This is beneficial bc it makes it easier for you to find exactly what you’re looking for. (Thank you, command + F)

7. Put your effort into the percentages. If an assignment is worth 1% of your grade, do it well, but don’t exhaust yourself. It’s 1%!!!! If it comes down to it, spend more time studying for that exam that’s worth 30% than the group project worth 20. 

8. Please. Stop studying what you already know. We’re all guilty of it. It makes you feel better knowing you have chapters 1-3 down, even if you don’t know 4-7. The key to studying is to learn what you don’t know. 

9. Learn how to study. (Yes, it’s actually a skill that has to be learned.) I’m the biggest procrastinator I know, especially when it comes to studying. But I’ve found that studying 2 days before an exam usually does the trick for me. I create a master study guide during day 1 and study it all on day 2. Depending on what time the exam is, I may review on the morning of day 3. 

10. SAVE SOME TIME FOR FUN ffs. Seriously. You don’t have to study 24/7, and I don’t know about y’all but my attention span was not built for that.

I might add more to this later, or make another post because I could give these tips for ever and ever. But hopefully this helps someone out there. 

Be sure to check out my college tab here:(http://thesoontobenewyorker.tumblr.com/tagged/college) and follow me on instagram @parissdb (https://www.instagram.com/parissdb/) for more stuff. :) 

On Applying to 20+ Colleges

I completed 24 college applications, submitted 17 (to Princeton, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Rice, Amherst, Georgetown, Emory, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, UNC-Chapel Hill, UVA, University of Pittsburgh, Williams, Washington University in St. Louis, Harvard and Yale) and received admission to all except the last four.

N.B. Some of this info may be dated/inaccurate and 100% of it is tinged w/ my own bias.

Things To Think About

Why do you want to apply to so many colleges? 

  • If it’s hubris (i.e. “I want to collect admissions offers like trophies”) or fear (i.e. “If I submit more applications, I’m less likely to be shut out from every school I apply to"), stop and reevaluate. I applied to Vanderbilt even though I knew I’d never want to head south. The reason? It traditionally takes a lot of kids from my HS. Yeah, don’t be like me.

Do you really want to spend all that money? 

  • I ended up wasting $2500 (and that’s a conservative estimate) on 17 schools. I’ll only be attending one college in the fall.

That said…it can be done.

General Tips

  • The “Why Us” essay isn’t asking “why would you choose our college?” so much as “why should our college choose you?” Emphasize how you’ll contribute to the college—inside the classroom and out—by referencing specific programs, classes, and extracurriculars.
  • Creating a template is a major time-saver. Once you have an effective “skeleton,” all you have to do is insert school-specific details. 
  •  Stay organized.
    • Create a spreadsheet. These were my columns: College Name, Application Type, Application & Aid Deadline, Standardized Test Report, Transcript & SS Form, Recommendation Letter Deadline, Creative Writing Supplement (Y/N), Interview (Y/N), Merit Scholarship (Y/N), CSS Profile, FAFSA, Sticker Price, Response Date.
    • If you use Google Drive, create a folder for each college.
  • Consider making a CV/resume. Keep it short (~1 page). Possible uses: upload as a part of your application; hand it to alumni interviewer.

Miscellaneous

  • Don’t apply to Georgetown unless you really really like it. There’s a separate application (not Common App) that’s cumbersome to fill out, and you can’t access it until you pay the application fee (which also happens to be p expensive)
  • Optional essays are NEVER optional. Hopefully, this is obvious.
  • The more selective publics (UC Berkeley, UCLA, UVA, UNC, UMich) are more holistic than you think. They reject high stats kids on the reg (anecdote: a dude from my school who got into Caltech didn’t get into Berkeley; another who got into Cornell didn’t get into UMich) so PAY ATTENTION to the essays.
  • Alumni interviews don’t matter AT ALL unless you make a terrible impression—or possibly if you’re a borderline applicant.

N.B. Applying to colleges based on the perceived difficulty of the application isn’t the greatest idea. That said, for your reference:

Easy College Applications

Vanderbilt University

  • Very easy. Only a 100-word extracurricular essay, I believe. Unless you want to fill out a scholarship application.

Washington University in St. Louis

  • Also very easy. No supplement unless you fill out scholarship app.

Amherst College

  • Zero work if you have a graded school essay you’re proud of (can upload in lieu of a college supplement)

Harvard University

  • I think there’s just one supplement and you can write about whatever you want.

Cornell University

  • Just one “Why Us” essay

University of Pennsylvania

  • One “Why Us” Essay, unless you’re applying to Engineering or a special program like Wharton, M&T, etc.

Moderate College Applications

Duke University

  • Three supplements, I think. All fairly straightforward. There’s a diversity essay that’s optional (refer to the Miscellaneous section)

Princeton University

  • A lot of short, lighthearted questions (favorite keepsake, favorite movie, etc.) and an essay (they give you three prompts to choose between)

Stanford University

  • Three fairly straightforward, 150-word essays. There’s a letter to your roommate, an intellectual interest essay, and something else.

Emory University

  • Easy, short supplements, but there are three of them.

All the UCs

  • There’s one UC application for all the UC schools (Berkeley, LA, Irvine, etc.) so same essays and everything, but you have to pay an application fee for each school you apply to. There are a lot of questions (called Personal Insight Questions) so it’s not quick, but once you’re done you’ve covered multiple schools. Also, if you are applying, ask your counselor about the UC GPA.

UMich

  • Three short essays, one of which is “Why Major.” Another is an extracurricular essay. Don’t remember the third.

UNC

  • I don’t really remember the supplements, but they weren’t that bad.  

Difficult/Thought-Provoking College Applications

Yale University

  • This is hard because there are a ton of questions with 35, 100, and 150- word limits. “Why Yale” essay. Hard to come up with insightful answers/make an impression with so little space.

UChicago

  • I personally wasn’t a fan of the cutesy/philosophical prompts, and the essays that I wrote (but ultimately never submitted) reflected my utter lack of interest. If you enjoy them, UChicago may just be the school for you :P

Dartmouth College

  • Only three short i.e. 150 word essays, but one of them referenced Sesame Street. Something along the lines of ‘It’s not easy being green. Discuss.” There was another one on describing a time when you said YES to something. Anyway, I disliked them and never completed my application.

UVA

  • I think there are three short essays, but they require a decent amount of thought. Although UVA is a public school, craft your essays well. The admission officers care a lot about them.

Williams College

  • There’s only one short supplement, but it’s a real pain. Hard not to veer into cliche territory.

Tedious College Applications

Columbia University

  • So many (five?) supplements. Some are generic though. “Why Columbia,” a list of books you’ve read/media you’ve consumed.  

Rice University

  • Also a lot of supplements. “Why Rice,” “Why Major,” Diversity essay, the famous box (where you can upload any image you want).

I’m now an incoming freshman heading off to college this fall. I’m very happy to say that I survived the college application and acceptance process. Here are some tips/advice I have for high school seniors applying to college in the U.S. Best of luck to anyone applying this fall! Feel free to drop an ask if you need advice. 

  • Some schools use Common App, others don’t. Visit the college’s official website. If you search them on the Common App and they’re not there, chances are you’ll have to go to another website to apply. 
  • Avoid asking friends to look over your essay. You might feel tempted to ask them for advice. You’re better off asking a teacher for critiques. They’re professionals, and they can help you get your essay in the right direction. I suggest asking English teachers because they’re great when it comes to grammatical errors and the like. 
  • For the Common App essay, keep brainstorming. Keep writing. Keep editing.  I cannot stress this enough. If you feel that your essay isn’t working, toss it out. Don’t waste your time writing something that doesn’t reflect who you are. 
  • Avoid reading other people’s essays. There’s a reason why their prose and topic works for them. Your essay is meant to reflect who you are as an individual. Reading their essays will not help you in writing yours. There’s no formula. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to write about an accomplishment or the time you won something. Don’t write it for them, write it for you. 
  • START EARLY ON ESSAYS. This is not an essay you can write the night before. A majority of colleges view your essay as one of the main factors in your acceptance. This is not something to blow off or take lightly. You need to spend at least a few weeks or more to craft your essay. 
  • Schools will require ADDITIONAL ESSAYS. Check the Common App or an alternative website for these additional essays. They’re often called “supplemental essays.” Make sure you get these extra essays looked over as well!
  • Recommendations. Some colleges require none. Others ask for as many as 3. Most applications ask for a rec from a counselor and teacher. The Common App gives you the option of getting a rec from a non-academic teacher like a coach. 
    • Some teachers get swamped with several requests for a recommendation. Start asking within the first few weeks of school. 
    • The teachers you’re getting recs from should know you very well, they should be familiar with your success as a student and as an overall person. 
    • If you’re planning on asking, the best way to go is by seeing the teacher in person. It’s more genuine and direct. Send an email as last resort. 
  • Own a planner or notebook to keep track of deadlines and tasks. I suggest getting a mini notebook just for college applications. In the notebook, I would write down: deadlines, essays that need to be edited/looked over, colleges you’re applying to, transcripts that need to be sent, etc. Check off tasks when you get them done. Use the calendar for deadlines. 
  • Work on applications during the weekday. It sounds hectic, believe me, but you’ll save yourself the stress. Work on application related tasks every night, whether it’s editing a paragraph of your essay or sending in those AP scores. That way, you can be efficient during the weekday and weekend.
  • DEADLINES ARE DIFFERENT FOR EARLY ACTION, EARLY DECISION, and REGULAR DECISION APPLICANTS. KEEP TRACK OF THESE DEADLINES.
    • Early decision: If you apply early and you get in, you’re automatically binded to that school. You must attend and decline all your other applications to other schools. 
    • Early action: If you apply early and you get in, you don’t have to worry about applying later on. You are not binded to that school. 
    • Regular decision: You apply at the normal deadline. They notify you later than the early applicants. You are not binded to any schools. 
  • Do your research about your colleges, their test score policies, which AP test scores they accept, etc. Your best bet is visiting the college’s official website and/or checking the requirements on Common App. Write these down because colleges ask for different requirements.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a teacher, counselor, Google, a college representative, family, and your friends. They are your greatest assets. I pretty much got the best help from asking my friends because they had older siblings who went through the college app process.
  • Avoid College Confidential. Enough said.
  • Don’t hold back, and don’t give up. I never would have imagined getting into my dream school but I did. You’d be surprised at what you’re capable of as long as you stay true to yourself and work hard.
  • Senior year will take a lot of your time away from friends and family. Make sure to keep in touch with them frequently! Take breaks. Please do not prioritize school before your mental health. Your health is more important.
  • Your test scores are just a number. It does not define your actual intelligence nor does it define your value as a human being. Your scores may not be within the range of the school but it doesn’t mean you won’t get in because of it. That being said, you should still try and study for them. You have the option of taking the ACT/SAT again in senior year. 
  • Your activities and extracurriculars are really important. Colleges want to see what you’re passionate about when you’re not a student in the classroom. They will ask you to list what clubs or activities you’ve been involved in since entering high school. Leadership positions and volunteer hours are wonderful additions.
  • It can get stressful and frustrating, so make sure you space out all the tasks you have to get done. Remember to take breaks, have fun, and relax once in a while. A clear, relaxed mind works better than a mind under severe stress and lack of sleep. 
  • Senioritis is real. You sometimes have to step back and punch senioritis in the face. Even the best students fall prey to this contagious disease. Colleges DO look at your second semester grades, don’t let them slip. Start strong, finish strong. 
    • Senior year is said to be one of the best years of your life. Sure it’s gonna get tough in the beginning but once you’re done, you’re ready to go off to college before you know it. 

Good luck and have a wonderful year! 

For incoming high school seniors, your last year in high school is approaching, and this means you’ll start applying to different colleges and/or universities where you could potentially spend the next chapter of your life in. Here’s a list of tips that will guide you every step of the way, from choosing schools to filling up your application form. 

Keep reading

5

08-01-2017;

for anyone writing a personal statement here’s some advice I collated from countless sheets I have been given over the last three years. This is all sound advice, as I have written three personal statements and all of which have gotten me unconditional’s :) Good luck guys! 

The Evolution of a Common App Essay: Tips and Excerpts

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do choose a topic that you feel strongly about even if people say it’s cliche. A “unique” essay isn’t effective if it comes across as outlandish, unfocused, or worse—contrived; it’s the way you approach a subject that matters, not the subject itself. 
  • Do aim for sincerity over memorability. 
  • Don’t address risky (sensitive) subjects like mental illness or drug use. There’s a fine line between vulnerability and TMI; what strikes a chord with one reader might offend another. Think about how you can communicate similar ideas using different anecdotes. See below.

The Evolution of an Essay

I went through seven drafts from start to finish; this is a shortened (and slightly exaggerated) version of my thought process.  

What’s the most integral part of your identity? 

Anxiety. 

Why? 

My struggle with it has probably shaped me more than anything. 

Okay, too risky. What’s an event you keep revisiting in your mind?

That time when I got caught in a riptide.

Why is it significant? Jot down a few key words/ideas.

Helplessness. Fear. Saving myself. Writing. This became:

Surrounded by yet estranged from humanity, so close to shore yet so far away, I began to despair. The sharp pulse of my fear ebbed into resignation; my kicking and flailing slowed. But almost as soon as I stopped struggling, it dawned on me: all I had to do was tread. From this experience arose my poem “Fujian.” This piece is a memorial of the boundless joy I had felt upon reaching land, an elegy for the arrogant girl who had thought that she was greater than the sea. But it is also a lesson for days to come. Don’t waste energy fighting life’s many storms. Weather them out.

I went through several drafts and changed the topic several times, but noticed a recurring focus on the third idea—overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle by ceasing to struggle. In my first draft, I was only able to swim back to shore after I stopped resisting the tide; in my final draft, I was only able to speak up after setting aside my fear of ridicule:

I think about how I’ve exchanged no more than a few words with my grandfather during the entire trip, fearing that he would rue the foreign lilt of my Mandarin. But silence is too high a price to pay. My aloofness has shielded me not from hurt but from connection; it is the weakest defense, mere child’s armor in a grown-up world. And so I clear my throat, my Mandarin an old tune whose lyrics I am only just recalling, and begin to speak.

hello appblr world!! I recently graduated high school (c/o 2015), and I will be attending Duke University in the fall, hoping to pursue a double major in English and Political Science with a minor in either Psychology or Neuroscience :’) 

applying to colleges was one of the most stressful experiences of my life, so I really want to help out anyone who is now currently feeling those tidal waves of anxiety and panic. my intention is to help and hopefully alleviate any nerves about applying to college (in America)

the summer before my senior year, every time I read the word ‘college’, my heart rate spiked & I started internally freaking out. for me, the whole process was super overwhelming, and my distaste for the education system (specifically, the american education system) quadrupled. I remember feeling incredibly confused and alone because I didn’t know where to start, so here is a lil guide thingy!!! 

THE SUMMER BEFORE SENIOR YEAR: 

  • make sure and finish all your summer assignments – I know that college applications are a strong focus, but get what you’re supposed to do out of the way first + you will feel less overwhelmed and more productive
  • start making a list of colleges that you want to apply for – my best suggestion is to categorize them into safety schools, match schools, and reach schools
    • ref: generally people look at a school’s admitted profile (on the school website) and compare stats, which means gpa, rank, test scores, etc. if you can, it’s also helpful to read into their supplementary essay prompts and examples to give you a general idea of what a college is looking for (ex. UChicago is notoriously known for their quirky supplementary essay prompts; famous past prompts include: Find X, Where’s Waldo?, Why are you here?, What’s so odd about odd numbers?) 
  • do lots of research on schools you’re interested in – ok now I know that reading these long paragraphs on school websites can get really tiring, so try watching some youtube videos or looking the school up on reddit, and be sure to talk to current students to get a first-hand account
    • look at location, diversity, the programs offered in relation to what you’re interested in, size, public vs private institutions, sports, social scene, political affiliations, financial aid offered, study abroad, etc)
  • try and figure out a general field of what you’re interested in – you do NOT need to know what you want to major in, but when you’re applying for colleges, you will most likely need to select an intended major; if not, you will apply as undeclared, which has its advantages and disadvantages!! but even with an intended major, most colleges don’t make you officially select a major until sophomore, sometimes even junior year, so it is okay to not know what you wanna do when you’re 16/17/18!!! but explore and reflect and try and figure out a general field of what you’re interested in. do NOT use your grades as a sole factor in deciding; if you are good at math and have really high grades, that does not necessarily mean that you should be a math major - pursue your passions!! if you know that you like writing and reading, then consider a major in english or literature. if you think you’d like to work with computer software, then consider a major in computer science or computer engineering. ALSO know that there are so many potential majors + even the option to create your own at some universities!! and also know that many people change majors, and that is totally ok :) 
  • in august, common app will open, which is what many colleges use for the application process. certain schools will have specific websites themselves (i.e. MIT, University of California schools, etc) – if you make an account BEFORE august, it will be deleted by then, so be careful!! now, when you make ur account, you can add schools and you can look at their supplements and stuff. be sure and note deadlines!! 

DURING SENIOR YEAR: 

  • keep up with your school work – senioritis is REAL AND ALIVE, my friends. you will think it’s really bad first semester, but then it just explodes into a frenzy of apathy and indifference second semester + you basically don’t care about anything; this is normal, but still try and focus. colleges can rescind their acceptances, altho it’s not likely unless you suddenly fail everything, but overall, it’s just important to still try
  • keep good relations with your teachers (both current teachers and past teachers) & decide on which to ask for a rec – for many schools, they will require at least one teacher recommendation, so you must decide between which teachers you wanna ask. I would advise picking the teachers you’ve always had good relations with, and in a subject where you’re really passionate about learning the material. when asking, be respectful of deadlines (aka don’t ask them to write you a rec two days before the deadline. they are people too), and be sure and say thank you. if you can, make them a card or make/buy them a little gift; I promise you, they’ll appreciate it!! 
    • if the school you’re applying to requires multiple teacher recs: many people advise asking teachers of different subjects to emphasize your well-roundedness – you can do that or you can ask teachers of one subject that you’re really interested in; weigh your options and politely ask. asking teachers can be really scary sometimes, especially if you’re very shy, but they’re there to help you and it’ll all work out :)
  • write a common app essay (if applicable) – common app has 4 prompts that you can choose from, and then you’ll submit that to all the colleges ur applying to thru common app. this is very important. if you’re not a good writer, do not fret!! most of the time, the subject of these essays are very personal. a lot of people write about some trying time in their lives, but plenty of other people write creatively about something small, but important. remember that essays are a way for admission directors to get to know the real you :’) that sounds super cliche, but keep in mind that you are more than ur gpa and ur sat/act score. prove that to them by writing about something you care about
    • if you are ok with it (and it’s totally ok to not be ok with it), ask someone you trust to read over it and edit it. a lot of people ask their language arts teachers just bc they’ll help with grammar and structure, but asking other trusted adults and peers will be helpful too!! keep in mind the potential of bias from parents + friends though 
    • you will most likely write your common app essay multiple times. you will have lots of drafts & it can be really stressful, but patience. you will be so happy when you finally finish 
  • finalize your college list and start writing supplementary essays – many colleges will have supplementary parts to the application on top of common app. this can range from totally separate essays to lil short-answer questions, so be prepared and give yourself plenty of time to write!! just as with your common app essay, getting feedback can be super helpful
    • also remember that many colleges accept arts supplements (this range depends on the college, but I’ve seen colleges accept writing, dance, music, visual art, etc) & these fall under a different deadline, usually. if you want to submit in an art supplement, you may have to submit in your essays and everything earlier 
    • OH ALSO some colleges will have an early decision or early application deadline – this is basically an earlier deadline for ur app in exchange for an earlier decision. be careful on the difference between EA and ED!!! ED is BINDING, which means that if you get in, you have to go (you can get out of it for financial reasons tho), and EA is NONBINDING, which means that even if you get in, you can decide to go to another school
  • submit in your transcript and any test scores you need – different schools have different policies, but most fall under either the SAT + SAT 2 scores OR ACT + writing scores; I would suggest contacting the counseling office asap, but be super nice!! counselors are there to help you through this process, but it can be really overwhelming for them too
    • pay close attention to whether or not ur college requires a counseling rec or not
  • double check everything for small details – some colleges accept peer recs, but sometimes they don’t publicize that detail very much so just be observant! same with priority deadlines for interviews; you may have to submit in your app earlier if you want priority for an interview
  • accept ur interview opportunities – meet with an alumni or go on campus if you can and give an interview!! they’re really helpful sometimes bc it provides the school with a look into who you are as a person, not just as a student. also, from my experience, the alumni are super nice and really interested + it’s nice to just talk and nerd out about the school you like :’) 
  • submit ur apps (hehehe of course!) 
  • apply for scholarships – this is something that I wish I had taken more seriously, but really, college is expensive and scholarships can make all the difference. talk to your counselors if you don’t know where to start & literally just google for them!! be careful you are eligible for the ones you’re interested in and make sure you submit everything in by the deadline too 

AFTER SUBMITTING YOUR APPLICATIONS:

  • distract yourself like crazy – the wait is horrible and the anticipation is killer, if you’re anything like me at least. hang out with your friends and just enjoy your senior year!! this is the last of high school & i promise you that as much as you may hate it (if you do hate it), you will feel bittersweet by the end of the year. so make memories and make the best out of the time you have left in high school 
  • check your email – colleges oftentimes send you emails if they need you to send them anything more, or they’ll update you about things. they’ll usually also email you with where you need to go to check your decision
  • don’t let the senioritis take over ur soul 

RECEIVING YOUR DECISIONS: 

  • acceptances – YAY CONGRATULATIONS!!! be proud of yourself and know that you deserve it 100000%, wholeheartedly. they did not make a mistake, and you ARE that amazing. celebrate your accomplishment, but also be humble. it’s likely that you have a friend that either got waitlisted or denied, so be careful what you say 
  • rejections – i’m sorry, my dear!! but you are not meant to be at that school, and that is okay. even if it is your dream school. this does not reflect ur self-worth & this def does not mean that you aren’t good enough. this simply means you aren’t a good fit for the school!! most people have to deal with rejections, so take some time for yourself. eat some comfort food and watch some tv. read a book if that relaxes you. take a bath with lots of bubbles. do whatever is necessary to cleanse yourself of any negative thoughts you may have, and then realize that you can accomplish SO much wherever you end up!! UR A BRILLIANT SHINING STAR & I HAVE FAITH IN YOU :’)
  • waitlisted – being waitlisted (or deferred during EA/ED, which basically pushed you back to the regular decision time) sucks so much bc you just want to know; take a deep breath and consider all your options. make backup plans. if you’re really interested in the school, email them and tell them that!! make sure if you want to be on the waitlist, that you notify them of that (usually via mail or online somehow). if you don’t wanna be on the waitlist, make sure you take yourself off so you give everyone else a better chance :) 
  • weigh your options through careful, careful consideration – there are so many factors that may come into play when finally deciding on which college to go to
    • money is usually a huge factor, and sometimes you won’t be able to go to a great school even though you got in bc it’s too expensive. but do not be sad about this. give yourself time to feel sad, but don’t let it dictate your life!! you need to stay logical and rational. think long-term. sit down with your guardians and discuss the option of taking out loans and so forth. if you’re planning on pursuing grad school afterwards, you need to keep that in the picture as well 
    • talk to current-students and compare important things – if you’re really big on community service, ask the current students at different schools how it is there. this applies for everything!! first-hand accounts are incredibly helpful. you can also consider emailing professors of departments you’re interested in for a more professional and academic perspective 
    • look into their programs and try and avoid putting too much emphasis on rankings - be specific and read up on the department that you’re interested and compare them with different schools. don’t blindly let an overall ranking mislead you!! (i.e. Duke is ranked higher overall than Georgia Tech, but Georgia Tech is ranked MUCH higher in many of its engineering programs) 
    • talk to people – talk to your parents. talk to your counselors, your teachers, your peers. basically everyone is talking about college your senior year, so take advantage of it. talk with other people and get second, third, fourth, fifth opinions. expand your mind and consider everything!! 

senior year is this giant conglomeration of sweat and tears and happiness and anger and jealous and confusion, so do not worry if you are feeling overwhelmed!! it is normal, and i promise that everyone has felt scared about the future at some point. but with that, be confident in yourself. you’re absolutely lovely + you will go far in life!! 

ok 1) I apologize for how absurdly long this post is and 2) I am here to help if ANYONE has ANY questions about anything!! literally I would love giving advice, so feel free to msg me anytime (my main account is @naiveety though, so whichever works) 

ALSO if anyone is interested in Duke, please please please come to me & I will help!!!

GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE APPLYING TO COLLEGE & MAY YOU ALL HAVE A WONDERFUL, BRILLIANT FUTURE :’) 

College applications can be seriously stressful and overwhelming. After going through the process a few months ago and getting into both schools I applied to, I thought I’d share a few tips and a general timeline to shoot for! 

as soon as possible

  • Begin making a list of colleges you’re interested in and researching them.
  • Start thinking about what extracurriculars you want to list; drop the ones you don’t care about to give you more time for the ones you enjoy most. 
  • Think about the teachers that know you the best and ask if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation. 

six months before applications are due

  • Narrow down your list to your top choices only.
    • There’s no point in wasting money applying to colleges you don’t want to go to!
  • Look at the Common App essay prompts and start brainstorming topics.

as soon as applications open

  • Fill out the easy parts of the application – your name, address, etc.
  • Make a list of any fields that you will need help filling out (like if you’re not sure what your advisor’s phone number is).
  • Start rough drafts of your essays, even if you aren’t sure of the topics.

three months before applications are due

  • Nail down essay topics and begin serious revisions.
  • Ask people if they would be willing to proofread your essays.
  • Visit campuses if possible, or speak to an admissions counselor to better tailor your applications to each school.

one month before the due date

  • Send essays to the people that have agreed to go over them.
  • Finish up the questions portion of the application.
  • Enter in actives and have someone proof them.
  • Begin final edits of essays.
  • Contact the teachers that are writing your letters and add them as recommenders on Common App (if that’s what you’re applying through). 

one week before the due date

  • Finalize your essays.
  • Have a parent review your application make sure all the information is accurate. 
  • Make sure all test scores, transcripts, and any other supplemental materials are in order and will be sent on time.
  • Submit your applications as soon as possible so you’re not stressing about getting it in on time!

a few things to keep in mind

  • There’s no right number of schools to apply to.
    • I applied to two, my sister applied to one, and I have friends that applied to ten. Do your research and narrow it down as much as possible to save time and money, but above all make sure that you’re happy with the schools you choose. 
  • Schools want to see applicants that are unique and passionate about something. It’s not so much about finding a student that’s done a million different things and is a member of every club, but finding one that shows dedication and individuality through their application.
  • They can tell the difference between an essay written by a high school senior or college transfer and an adult pretending to be one – don’t ever ever ever hire someone out to write yours for you. 
  • Be creative with extracurriculars if you think you don’t have enough! Everything from babysitting your siblings to coding themes counts.
  • Seriously never underestimate the importance of having other people proofread. You’ve been looking at your essays for so long that you would never catch that one bit of an old sentence sandwiched in between a new one, but someone else will. 
  • Don’t sweat it! You’ve totally got this.
  • Me when I'm not home: omfg I have so much to do when I get home, and so many essays to write not to mention all the studying I have
  • Me when I get home: oh cool 115k word fic, lets read it all in one sitting

University classes are a monster you can’t prepare for until you’re in them. I have been through every up and down with schoolwork possible in the past year, so here are some tips that can hopefully help you avoid those downs:

Choosing and Registering for Your Classes

  • Make sure to thoroughly check both your major requirements and your gen ed requirements. Normally, you’ll have an advisor to help you make sure you’re on track, but Vandy doesn’t assign first-year engineering students one until after registration when school starts, and I didn’t have an advisor for this year’s registration either due to my major change, so I’ve spent hours and hours doing this on my own. There’s often recommended courses and example schedules in the course catalog that tell you what classes you should be taking at this point in time. Pay attention to that and you should be fine. For example, you have to have taken a first-level writing class to qualify for junior standing here. Those are the little things you have to look out for. To keep track of it all, I have a spreadsheet I use for planning my sophomore - senior years that lists all the requirements I need to meet in terms of hours and courses in order to graduate on time. I plug in possible courses and see which requirement they would fulfill and when. You can check it out here to see what I mean, it’s very helpful.
  • Find at least one fun elective to take if at all possible. It gets very tiring when all you have on your schedule are really difficult classes that you don’t enjoy. Try to find at least one class that you’re genuinely interested in to help get you excited for the day. Each of my last semesters, my schedule consisted of a calculus class, a lab science, a comp sci class, and Italian. Italian was the only fun one that I enjoyed going to. It really helps you out. You’re not just in college to get your degree, you’re there to discover what you really want to do, so feel free to explore your catalog and take something completely out of character just because you want to. Bonus if it fills some kind of requirement (Italian filled my Foreign Language Proficiency and one of my International Cultures reqs.).
  • Have multiple versions of your schedule based on which classes you may or may not get into. I don’t know about your school, but at Vanderbilt, class registration is literally like the Hunger Games. You’re assigned an enrollment date based on your year (seniors get to go first, then juniors, etc.) and at 8 am on that day, you refresh the website and either enroll in your classes or get placed on the wait list for it. If you’re a freshman, you’re basically screwed because you go last, and so you could have planned out your perfect schedule only to find they’ve all filled up the day before your enrollment period starts. To avoid having to scramble, have multiple versions of your schedule, with back ups and substitutions for every class. This way, you won’t be surprised when you go to enroll and all but one of your classes are filled, then you have to search for other classes, but at that point, all that’s left are scraps that don’t fit your requirements. Plan plan plan and practice clicking the enroll button on all your classes as fast as you can for when the clock strikes 8.
  • You have freedom over your schedule now; take advantage of that! No more 8-3 Monday through Friday; you can take classes whenever you want. I prefer to have all my classes on MWF in a block of a few hours and only one or no class on TR. Of course, sometimes you’re going to have to take classes at less optimal times, but do try to accommodate yourself and take classes at times you know will be good for you. Lots of people prefer to start early and finish early, while I like to start no earlier than 11, even if I don’t finish until 5. The best part of college is you can do what you want.
  • Don’t take 8 ams. I’m repeating this cause it’s important. I swear, you’ll regret it. In high school, I woke up every morning early as hell to catch my bus at 6:30, but in college, it was nearly impossible for me to get up for my 11 am only three times a week. Don’t ever take an 8 am by choice. And if you have no choice, good luck lol.
  • Don’t be afraid to drop a class. If you’re doing terribly in a class or you absolutely can’t stand it, drop the class. There’s a very little chance that if you’re failing during the first half of the semester, you’ll be able to change your grade dramatically in the second half. Maybe you decided to be an overzealous freshman and signed up for the maximum number of hours possible and now you’re drowning. Drop a class! Sometimes, a course is going to do more harm to you than good, so it’s best to get rid of it than have an F or a W on your transcript.
  • Use RateMyProfessor! I totally forgot about this when I originally posted this and it’s already got almost 1,000 notes but hopefully people see this. RateMyProfessor is so fucking useful. It’s IMPERATIVE that you check this website before you enroll in classes. Someone at Vandy actually made a Chrome extension for our enrollment website that automatically shows a professor’s ranking while you’re looking for classes. Obviously, take it with a grain of salt, and make sure the reviews actually make valid points about the workload and class and isn’t just someone bitter about failing. I took calc with a professor who taught at my high school just cause she taught at my high school even though her reviews said she was insanely difficult and the class was near impossible to pass. Guess what? They were right and I failed as did a big chunk of everyone else in her class. You don’t have to let RMP dictate your schedule, but definitely check it out, and if everyone says the professor is awful, don’t fucking take them. 

Attending Your Classes

  • Establish a connection with your professor early. I recommended introducing yourself on the first day of class just so they know your name and face in another post. It’d be even better to attend an office hour or review session or something. Just make sure they know you. It’ll be easier to communicate when you need something later in the semester if it isn’t their first time seeing you.
  • Actually use this connection with your professors. In my experience, they can be pretty understanding and when you’re in a bad place, they’ll likely help you out. If something is preventing you from doing your best in class, go to them for help (I didn’t go to many office hours but I wish I did! Who better to explain to you something you don’t understand than the person who grades you on it?) or explain to them your situation. I had professors let me take tests late and redo assignments due to my mental health after I explained to them I wasn’t just a terrible student; if it wasn’t for this, I would’ve failed all of their classes. Maybe at the end of the semester they’ll drop one of your wonky grades or bump you up that extra half point you need. Your professors are a resource, and it’s up to you to use it.
  • Take notes however you want. I used my laptop in some, paper in others, and even my iPad and a stylus for calculus. In all of your classes will be a mixture of different techniques and no one cares what you do. Whatever works best for you and helps you get down the most information is what you should do. Also, you don’t have to write down everything. If your professor uses slides and posts them for you to download, you don’t really have to write down anything at all unless they add extra points, so that’s really convenient. 
  • You don’t have to sit in the front. As long as you can see and hear, which you’ll likely be able to due to large projection screens and microphones, it literally doesn’t matter where you sit. In my experience, the professors call on people from every part of the lecture hall, so everyone gets an equal chance at participation. It’s up to yourself to make sure you can pay attention, not your seat.
  • Do your best to attend every single class meeting. It’s inevitable that you’re going to miss class at some point; you will get sick, you won’t have finished an assignment, you’ll need a mental health day, something will happen. Missing class can too easily become a habit if you do it often, so try to never do it. Don’t force yourself to go if you can’t handle it, obviously your health always comes first, but I mean don’t skip cause you want to sleep in or cause you just don’t feel like going. If you do have to miss class and 1) you have a good reason for it (i.e. sickness) and 2) it’s a class small enough that your professor will notice you’re not there, email them and let them know why, just so they’re aware you’re not just skipping to skip.  
  • Try to make friends in your classes. A little study group would be even better. It’ll be really useful to have someone who can help you with a homework question you don’t understand or send you their notes when you miss a class. It can also be great to study with other people, depending on how you study best. I’ve had friends in all my classes so far and it’s been a great help, even if we just complained about the test we just failed then went to get pizza.

Tackling the Coursework

  • Make a REALISTIC study schedule. The key word here is realistic. During winter break I made a study schedule that started with me waking up at 8 am every morning to go work out and ended with me going to sleep promptly at 11 or midnight after spending literally the entire day studying with breaks only for meals. No breaks on weekends, no room to socialize, and I thought this would be perfectly fine for me to follow. Of course, I didn’t last a week because that was fucking ridiculous. You don’t need to schedule every hour of your day; college doesn’t work like that. Just do something simple, an hour for a class or maybe less depending on how hard it is and if you have a test coming up. Trust your instincts. There’s no need to go overboard, and you don’t need to spend six hours a day working, just dedicate a time to studying and stick with that.
  • Explore study techniques until you find one that works for you. Everyone doesn’t study the same, so if you do what everyone else is doing you might not get the results you want. Even if you had a great system in high school, it might not be fitting for college, so check out a bunch of different methods and see how you do with them. Once you find the best way you study, you’ll be unstoppable when exam time comes.
  • Start your assignments early, as soon as you can after they’re assigned. There’s nothing worse than having a bunch of assignments/tests/papers due on the same day and you haven’t finished any of them. Trust me, it is so much less stressful to complete an assignment as soon as you can after it’s been assigned so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Putting things off has much more severe consequences than it did in high school and you will regret procrastinating. If you have a weekly assignment due every Friday, try to complete them by Wednesday every week. At the very least, start an assignment the day you get it even if you can’t finish it that day. It’s a lot easier to do something after you’ve already begun working on it, and that one thing you do is progress.
  • The name of the college game is prioritization. If college teaches you anything, it’s how to prioritize your duties. You need to create a hierarchy of importance for your classes and types of assignments. For me, calculus assignments were always done first because that was the most difficult class and the one I absolutely needed to pass, and Italian was always done last cause it was my easiest class and I could complete even our biggest assignments in one day. You’re going to have a very large amount of work and sometimes you have to sacrifice finishing a small homework assignment to finish a huge paper or study for an exam. I liked to complete my hardest/longest assignments right when I got back from class to get them over with and leave my easier ones for later. Prioritizing is essential if you want to succeed in university, so learn how to do it immediately! 
  • Remember that uni is really difficult and your grades don’t define you. Something I learned the hard way is that sometimes you can try really really hard, do the best you can, and still fail. That’s just life. Sometimes you have to do something a million times before you get it right, or before you discover that it just isn’t right for you at all. I worked harder than I ever had this past year, and what I got in return was two failed classes, two D’s, academic probation, and a 2.3 GPA. Actually, my current GPA isn’t even a 2.3, it’s a 2.295, which is probably blasphemy to the studyblr community, but this shit happens. It happens to all of us and it sucks. It can be really shitty to feel like your effort wasn’t reflected in your result. What you need to do is adjust your expectations and keep working hard. After you hit your stride, your grades could be great in no time. Or you could discover that math or science or english just isn’t for you. Maybe you’ll discover university as a whole isn’t right for you, and that’s okay! Bad grades, whether you define that as a B or an F, don’t mean you’re a bad student or a bad person. You do what you can, and then let go of what you can’t control. The sooner you grasp this idea, and the sooner you learn to be gentle with yourself, the easier a time you’ll have.

So I feel like I forgot a lot of things but also this is pretty long so I’m going to end the post here. If you have any further questions or topics for a post you’d like to see, my inbox is always open. I don’t know which post is coming next, but I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading and I hope this helped you out!

Previous Posts:

hello, your favorite clueless incoming college freshman here. i was accepted to stanford university as a part of the class of 2021, and i’ve been getting a lot of messages on tumblr/social media and from friends at home too about how to get into stanford. i hate answering this question, because, as you will notice, i did not title this post “how to get into stanford” because the truth is i don’t know. (really. i was accepted into some great schools, but i was also rejected from schools. who knows what stanford saw in me that others didn’t?)

but, stanford being my dream school since the 8th grade, i can relate to the nervous i-just-love-this-school-so-much feeling & having millions of questions about the application process. so i thought i’d write out a couple of really random and maybe helpful tips that are VERY SPECIFIC to my own personal application (as i can’t say for sure about any generalities).

if you have any questions about this, or about the college app process, or if you just want to say hi, feel free to shoot me a message (just turned on my anon messages!). much love & good luck.

  • grades / test scores / class rank: i did not have even close to perfect test scores. this fact stressed me out immensely, but in hindsight i think i was dumb to worry over these numbers. when i say that i don’t think that this section makes or breaks your app, i truly mean it. to me it seemed like such a small part of my application. i do believe i had good grades and such, so i won’t lie and say that it doesn’t matter…but if you are in your senior year, applying to college…the truth is it’s too little too late. so don’t stress about this, and worry about what you can actually do. so, you don’t have the best of grades. play up your other strengths - let someone else be the person that stanford chooses for great academic capability. you don’t have to fill that niche. find your own, and show stanford why they can’t be without it.
  • common app extracurriculars / accolades: or for me, lack thereof. i didn’t win major awards, did not play at the olympic level for sports, and i did not start a business or intern at a prestigious lab. i think these are all great things, but they have to make sense with your application. when you’re choosing what extracurriculars to put on your app, choose ones that will tell a story (hint: the “academic” side of your story should be what you put as your major interests! if you put your #1 major interest as computer science, but then you have nothing in your extracurricular activities about anything cs related…that doesn’t tell a compelling story. your essays and your common app could be two separate people!)
  • i don’t think i really played it “safe” with my application. this isn’t to say you should rely on shock value or wit to get you through, but i for sure did not write super formally for any part of the essay (use correct grammar and punctuation though). see the next tip.
  • common app essay: don’t be afraid to push the limit a little, play around with how you tell your story, especially if you are writing about something that many other people might be writing about. imo, this is the place for you to be creative and try and stand out. this might mean you add humor, or play around with the order that you tell your story, or utilize dialogue, or use a unique way to format your story. but this is also not the time for you to try something new…if you aren’t a creative writer my advice would be to not try and do that. i’m not a super funny person, so i didn’t take a comedic approach. if anything i think after reading tens of thousands of applications (and the tens of thousands more from previous years), admissions officers definitely can tell when the voice you use isn’t yours.
  • “short takes” or short answer questions: this was my favorite part of the application. boy oh boy did i squeeze everything i could out of this section. i used the space, especially the questions that asked about what books, films, artists, newspapers, etc. i enjoyed, to the best of my ability in a way that would showcase me as a real human being. i wanted whoever was reading my application to, by this point, have a pretty good understanding of who i was. i love journalism, film, witty books, philosophy, and art - so you bet my list included all of those things. i could do a whole other post about just the short takes so let me know if you want that. however, i do want to reiterate that this is the BEST TIME for you to fill in those missing gaps that you just couldn’t fit in a common app essay or activities section, or use it to emphasize just how involved you are with your passions/interests
  • intellectual vitality essay: one word - interdisciplinary. one of stanford’s mottos is “the wind of freedom blows” and i think of this to represent stanford students coming from a diversity of backgrounds, stories, experiences, interests, talents, coming together and finding ways to share what they love and know and grow as both a person and as a community. you can be the best physicist in the entire world, but if physics is all that you know and all that you are willing to talk about, then i just can’t be convinced of your intellectual vitality.
  • roommate essay: this probably isn’t good, but i literally wrote one draft for this essay. straight through, i just wrote what i felt like i would want to share with my roommate. i think here is also the moment for you to share how much you would really fit in at stanford - the practical bits. stanford is one of the few schools that doesn’t have a “why stanford” question, so find a way to fit that in, either subtly like i tried to do throughout my app, or a little more blatantly like i did with this essay. for example, i mentioned some of the things on stanford’s campus that i could see me and my roommate doing together. i also mentioned disney, cher from clueless, ferris bueller, the amazing race, the mowgli’s, how to get away with murder, and my favorite existentialist play. so you see, this was truly a mess of things that i believed represented me.
  • what matters to you, and why? essay: i used this essay to add the emotional leaning to my extracurriculars. i was very into politics and government, and had done canvassing and worked with state representatives, etc. while that may or may not be impressive, it still is just one line in my common app. so, i used this essay to re-emphasize my emotional connection with politics and culture, relating it back to my personal story. i also used this essay to give the admissions officers a look into my worldview, and how my surroundings have shaped my worldview.

most importantly, though, TELL YOUR STORY. idk how many times i have to say this, but all i truly did on my app was thing long and hard about what it would be like to be a college admissions officer reading thousands of essays. i didn’t even care if each of my essays were, on their own, super super amazing. i cared more about how well they supported and leaned on each other, so that at the end of the day the admissions officers would hopefully feel that they were meeting me, a whole human being, and not me, applicant #12940.

ok thanks for sticking with me. send me some love and/or questions here. :)

i’m going into my junior year of high school, the time when many students are getting ready to apply for college. many of my friends and peers have been concerned about what, exactly, they should be doing to prepare this year, and when. so, we held a college information session. this may be geared towards my specific area/region, but hopefully everyone can take something out of this. here are some tips that we learned:

ON COLLEGE VISITS

questions to ask:

  1. what is your freshman retention rate?
  2. what is the percentage of students that graduate in 4 years? (new statistic: ¾ of students don’t; the average student takes 5 ½ years to graduate)

make sure there is written documentation of your visit

when reviewing applications, colleges note “touch points”– these include things like taking an official tour, sending in those cards you get in the mail, or something as easy as emailing one of their admissions counselors with a simple question. they’ll keep your information, and it may give you an advantage over other students because you showed you’re seriously interested in their school. so, even if you’re taking an informal campus tour, make sure to stop in the admissions office and fill out one of those cards with your information. it’ll be added into their system as a touch point– and you’re already one step ahead!

TESTING

some things to remember:

  • the SAT and ACT are, for the most part, equally accepted by colleges.
  • certain schools may require an SAT subject test. make sure to check out programs you’re interested in so that you can prepare all of its requirements.
  • the SAT is a test of aptitude, while the ACT is more knowledge-based and straightforward. 
  • if you’re bright and a good test taker but maybe you don’t get the best grades, the SAT may be more fit for you.
  • if you’re more studious and focused on grades and retaining information you’ve learned in class, the ACT may be a better match. 
  • a guidance counselor recommends: take both tests once, and whichever you feel you performed better on, take it again. 
  • many colleges like to see growth in scores because it shows you’re really working towards something. this may change depending on the selectivity of the school, but consider this before only sending your best score. 
  • if you know what colleges you’re interested in, check and see what they prefer/require before taking the tests. most likely, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, effort, and money in the long run.

SO, WHEN SHOULD I BE DOING ALL OF THIS?

here’s a timeline of what was recommended for your junior year

October: 

  • take the PSAT again (this is the year that you can qualify for NMSQT). i’m not sure if this applies everywhere but i know where i live, this is a requirement.
  • if your school uses Naviance, make sure you have your login information. you should be using the tools it provides to research colleges and find out more about jobs you may be suited for.

November/December

  • take the ACT or SAT. if you’ve already taken the SAT, i suggest taking the ACT before doing the SAT again. 
  • this is around the time you should start visiting colleges if you haven’t already. if you can’t go to schools, look for information sessions and college fairs near you. if you’re on a college’s email list, they’ve likely sent you dates that they offer tours or perhaps are even hosting information sessions closer to you.

April/May/June

  • start asking for letters of recommendation!! many teachers give letters on a first-come-first-serve basis, so get ahead. usually you want to have 2-4 of these. think about programs and schools you may apply for, and think about what subject teachers may be most helpful in your application. also, check schools’ websites and see what they recommend/require. outside letters are also okay, if they’re from someone who knows you and your work ethic well. 
  • consider taking the SAT or ACT again. 
  • schedule your senior year. it’s no longer a time to slack off; colleges now look at your grades as late as third marking period. continue to challenge yourself, but also take electives that interest you to get a better idea of what careers you may want to pursue.
  • get the Common App essays from your guidance counselor. you should at least think about these over the summer to get an idea of what you’ll say in your application essays.

August

  • this is when the Common App is available for that year. many, but not all schools, use this. do your own research to decide if it’s a necessity for you.

MISC. TIPS

  • very few students partake in college interviews anymore. requesting and interview may set you apart from other students (touch point!), but it is definitely not required or even recommended by the vast majority of schools.
  • if you know you will be going to grad school or a higher ed program, think about where you want to concentrate your money. a cheaper but respected undergraduate school may be a great idea to save money for a great graduate school. (you probably don’t care where your doctor went for their undergrad, but where’d they go to med school?)
  • MAKE SURE YOU’RE MEETING YOUR SCHOOL’S GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS.
  • check to see what courses certain colleges recommend you take in high school. this may be a good way to plan the rest of your high school schedule, and also gauge whether or not you can achieve a college’s expectations.