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Overcoming 5 Fears of the College Application Process

by Story2 Guest Author, on Jun 10, 2013 11:49:00 AM

For me, applying to college was a terrifying endeavor.

I remember thinking: Not only does it dictate four years of my life, but I have to talk about myself. I’ve never been comfortable talking about my accomplishments because it felt like bragging, which is something that I had always frowned upon. The idea of bragging, while remaining modest and humble, for a full 500 words plus a resume plus all of my grades seemed like the worst thing in the world.

Looking back to 2 years ago (which seems like forever, really) there are five things that strike me as the biggest fears I had to overcome to write my college application essays:

Fear #1: Choosing the Colleges to Apply to

This was my biggest fear. I ended up applying Early Decision to my top choice school, but coming to that conclusion wasn’t easy. There were campus visits and tours; advice taken and, in some cases, ignored; expectations and reassurances. There are so many things to keep in mind.

Remedy: Choosing a college is a tough thing to do, and there’s really no way to fix all the pressure and stress that comes along with the decision. The best advice I can give is to take a deep breath and really think about where you were most comfortable. Which campus did you like the best? Did the students seem happy there? Were they friendly? Are there good classes that interest you, at sizes that will challenge you but also give you the attention you deserve? If there is a place that seems perfect, use Zinch, Noodle or Big Future to find other colleges that are similar--you’ll be surprised how many great colleges there are!

Fear #2: The Search for a Topic.

What do I want to write about? Did I ever stand up for something in my community? Do colleges really care about the dog I found and brought to an animal shelter? Do they care about the A I finally got on a math test? How do I tell them about it in a way that makes me sound like someone that they will want to come to their college?

Remedy: Your life is your topic, and you can write about lots and lots of things. The Common Application essay goes to all of the colleges you apply to, and so you only need to think of one topic for that. But it should be something that’s really your own--for me it was flying trapeze and circus; but it was so integral to my life that I didn’t know how to write about it at first. Making someone who had never seen a trapeze before understand what I was talking about was quite a challenge. Story To College helped me not only figure out where to start but also to realize how important it was to me. Go outside and take pictures of your favorite places and describe them in an essay and why they are important to you. Talk about a moment that you find incredibly influential of who you are as a person. There are lots of ways to show how incredible and unique and worthy of admission you are.

Fear #3: The Blank Page.

Staring at a blank white page and wondering where to start is overwhelming. “Tell us about yourself,” they say. “We want to know the real you, behind the numbers.” But how do you start? How do you get past the introduction and show where you changed as a person and grew into something bigger, better, more impressive? What is a hook, anyway?

Remedy: Talk to someone who knows you well. Ask them to tell you about a time that they saw you shine. I bet their first sentence will be a great hook. Plus, once you talk about your accomplishments out loud it is much easier to write them down.

Fear #4: The Supplemental Essays.

There is nothing worse than thinking you’re done and then flipping the worksheet over and seeing there’s more to do on the back. That’s what supplemental essays are like. It’s not a good idea to send the same supplemental essays to all of the colleges you’re applying to, and they all probably have different prompts anyway. So now you also have to write another one or two--or maybe 10 or more--250-word essays for some of the colleges you want to apply to. How are you going to think of that many topics and ways to describe how awesome you are?

Remedy: Supplemental essays are an extra chance to really connect. They give you extra opportunities to show colleges what a perfect match you are. Don’t stress over them, and don’t rush through them at the last minute either. Be honest and authentic, and use them as a tool to show more facets of yourself.

Fear #5: The Resume.

What did I even do in high school? Figuring out which things to put on your resume for college might not be too hard; just put everything you’ve ever done. Easy, right? I didn’t keep a log of all of my activities, though, and you might not have either. Trying to remember four years of work, sports, triumphs and failures can seem like a daunting task.

Remedy: Work with your friends. No, really. Ask them what you did together in, say, freshman or sophomore year. Ask them, “What is the most important thing I can bring to a college community?” They will probably remember the time you helped them through a rough patch, or the time you found a $20 bill on the ground and gave it to someone who needed a bite to eat. It’s all much easier if you work as a group; trust me on this one!

By Sammi Greene (Lehigh ‘16), Story2 Student Ambassador. Sammi Greene is a student at Lehigh University where she is an International Relations, Modern Languages, and Literature joint major. She is a member of the Global Citizenship program, which allows her to travel and apply her education to real life situations.

Topics:college admission