BY Austin Hill
Applying to any elite college is a risky decision. It offers the glorious potential of a top-notch education and all of the perks it constitutes, as well as the option of beating you down until you question every life decision you have ever made. For any ambitious student, it is important to prepare yourself psychologically for either outcome and any that may lie in between. You must know that no college decision defines you, and sometimes it is just luck that makes the difference between an acceptance and a rejection at any top-20 school. As someone who fell short in their attempts for prestige, I would like to give some tips I wish I would have received to raise my batting average from a meager .250.
- Start early. This really can’t be stressed enough, mostly because it will save you a ton of it. Early Action and Early Decision are a great way of finding out where you stand in an applicant pool, and they will relieve you from having to rush applications for the New Year’s deadlines. It is also a pleasure to be somewhat knowledgeable about your future before April.
- Get involved. Test scores and grades mean nothing to top colleges, as they are only a means to get into the door. Find a unique hobby that differentiates yourself from the thousands of other applicants and excel at it. Even though you are only 17 years old, colleges expect you to have a passion, and having a unique one will set you apart.
- Don’t worry about your essays being perfect. Avoid using overly flowery language, and most importantly, do not just answer the prompts, especially with supplemental essays. It might sound contradictory, but consider each college separately and use the prompts that each college provides, in addition to the personal statement, to craft a story, rather than a hodgepodge of answered questions. Read each application you submit to ensure that it represents your entire life story, not by every event that has ever happened to you, but by your values and personality.
With that said there are many factors that will contribute to your decisions that are out of your control, such as an admissions director’s mood at the time of your application’s reading. With that said, just lower your expectations.