To the class of 2018, you’re a few weeks away from your final first day of high school, and I guarantee you’re experiencing a lot. I lived through the college meetings with counselors, the applications, the fear of getting rejected, and all the fears after committing to a school. Looking back, here's what worked, here's what helped and here’s what I’d do all over again.
1. Despite popular belief, colleges don’t solely look at your grades.
I heard this so many times and had the hardest time believing it, but it’s true. Just because you don’t have a 4.0 GPA doesn’t mean you aren’t going to college. Many people I graduated with, myself included, didn’t take one AP class all of high school, and no one had any issue getting accepted into schools. The acceptance rate for my class was 100%. Don’t think that you’re destined to get denied everywhere because you’re not a perfect A+ student. Although grades are important to them, colleges look at a lot more than just the numbers.
2. Spend time organizing your list of extracurriculars before even opening up the Common App.
Before I started applying to schools, my mom and I sat down and hand-wrote every activity I was involved in since my freshman year of high school. These are things like sports, clubs, organizations, honor societies, recognitions and volunteer opportunities. Writing these down gives you a clear idea of what you can include in your applications. It can be hard to remember what we were involved in freshman year, so sitting down and organizing these notes is essential. This is so worth your time and you’ll be surprised of what you end up remembering when you have a pencil and paper.
3. Your college essay doesn’t need to be as sophisticated as an English class essay.
As corny as it sounds, your college essay is truly the one place where you can talk about whatever it is that makes you unique. College admission departments don’t get a glimpse into your passions. Your weirdest quirk or life-shaping moment isn’t included in your GPA. This is the time to tell a story of yours that’s worth being heard (I talked about my high school theatre experience and started my college essay with "For four months of my junior year, I was in a box"). Don’t get too caught up in the fact that it’s an essay, because this essay can be laid-back and full of personality while still being refined and appropriate. It isn’t supposed to be as proper as a research paper for school, so have fun with it.
4. Don't slack off second semester.
It’s so tempting to slack off, I know. I’m not here to tell you that I didn’t slack off — because I did. I really wish I hadn't, though. Once you’re accepted and committed to a school, high school just gets increasingly more irrelevant. Nothing is more sad than ending on a bad note. Study for tests, do homework and participate in classes. The school year may feel like it’s over for you, but technically, it’s still in session.
5. Go to football games, go to the school's musical, go to prom.
You already know it’s the year of lasts, so I’m not going to reiterate that millions of times. Just take in opportunities you’ve loved over the past three years and keep doing them. Go to events you’ve never gone to. Make it the year of firsts and not just the year of lasts. And please... just go to prom. I know you’ve heard all the "horrible" and "stupid" stories about it, but experience things like these so you don’t regret not trying them.
I could preach to you for the next hour and say there’s no reason to be nervous, and that senior year is a walk in the park, but I know that’s not what you want to hear. I know from personal experience that it’s not easy or enjoyable to listen to unsolicited tips and tricks about college from adults, especially when the adult is your parent (And let’s be real.. they were in college a trillion years ago, right?). Hopefully, these things were easier to hear from a current college student who was in your shoes.
If you’re feeling nervous, that’s okay. If you’re feeling nothing at all, that’s also okay. Even if you can't pinpoint what is causing you this “senior year stress,” it is completely normal. In case you haven’t heard it in a while, it is completely okay to feel how you’re feeling... and you’re going to be fine.