By Mia Speier ’18
Senior year is undeniably the most stressful year of high school. Each grade in high school is exhausting and challenging course-wise, but senior year comes with the extra nerves and stress of the college admissions process.
All throughout our last four years at Immaculate Heart, we have been told to “challenge ourselves,” “take classes we are passionate about,” “do your service to others,” and, always, “update your Naviance resume.” Yet all of these subtle reminders of things that become second nature build a giant brick wall that you end up running into during your first month of senior year — scratch that, first DAY of senior year, when we begin to dive headlong into college applications.
As someone who is applying to a large number of colleges, I can say with certainty that there are a few things I am learning along the way. And while the college application and admissions process is by no means done, I feel that it would be fun to publicly document my feelings, thoughts, anxieties, and, even, angers during a process that finds its way into every aspect of your senior year.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
I used to be someone who was obsessed with college admissions. And when I say used to be, I mean during sophomore and junior years, I was obsessed with the idea of applying to schools, getting into places, and being liberated somewhere on the other side of the country. It was before senior year when the excitement of the process kicked in; however, once it was actually time to start writing my essays and trying to convey who I am into a ten-slot extracurricular portion of the Common App and a few short essays, the nerves begin to take over. The had-beens of “I’m so excited to be an adult” quickly became “What if I don’t get in anywhere” and “What if this essay is not what they’re looking for.”
I think that the college admissions process is at its worse — a guessing game (albeit, a prolonged guessing game that lasts many months and can be very painful and exhausting).
While our college counselors are helpful and things we read online can bring us some comfort, college admissions is ultimately a grab bag, and there is never one particular thing that a college is deliberately looking for. And while this in many ways is a good thing, it is also in many ways not. While writing my essays, I often doubt myself — not in my ability to competently write words and string them together into sentences, but in my ability to craft the narrative of myself that I want to pitch to a college.
It is so hard to sit down and write the story of your life, or at least a glimpse of it, because deep down there is nothing you can do to change who you are or what you’ve done. Meanwhile, there are always lingering feelings: Am I doing this right? And is this what they want?
Which brings me to my next point: Being yourself.
As someone who has finished writing all of their college essays and supplements, I speak from experience when I say that it is very easy to deviate from writing what reflects your personality and your experiences. It is also easy to fall into the trap where you try to fit a mold that you believe an admissions officer might like or find interesting. While this is something that is definitely hard to avoid, it’s sometimes inevitable. Don’t trust me? Ask ANY other senior in my position! College admissions can be viewed as an episode of Shark Tank, where you have to pitch yourself, sell who you are, and hope that some Shark, or admissions officer, will find your ideas interesting and believe it is worth investing in you.
However, while this is the mindset that is easy to fall into, you must spin it the other way around.
I leave you with this thought: You are the shark.
And colleges have so many interesting opportunities and quirks that ought to interest you. The application process is to show why you are the shining star and why any school is lucky enough to have you, an amazing Immaculate Heart student, who is passionate in everything you do and have already accomplished, and who will be nothing but an excellent addition to any school community.