Overcoming My 5 Biggest College Application Fears
by Story2 Guest Author, on Nov 8, 2018 12:31:48 AM
For me, applying to college was a terrifying endeavor.
I remember telling everyone, "Not only does college dictate four years of my life, but to get in I have to talk about myself." I’ve never been comfortable talking about my accomplishments. It always felt like bragging, which is something that I frown upon. The idea of bragging, while remaining modest and humble, for a full 500 words plus writing a resume plus showing off all of my grades seemed like the worst thing in the world.
Looking back on the process, there were five big fears I had to overcome in order to finally settle in and write my college application essays:
Fear #1: Choosing Where to Apply
This was my biggest fear. I ended up applying Early Decision to my top choice school, but first there were campus visits and tours; advice taken and, in some cases, ignored; expectations and reassurances. Choosing a college is a tough thing to do and there’s no one way to fix all the pressure and stress that comes along with the decision.
Remedy: The best advice I can give is really think about where you were the 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 BigFuture to find other colleges that are similar—there are so many great options out there.
Fear #2: Picking an Essay 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 perfect score 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 get started by writing lots and lots of stories about your life. The Common Application essay goes to all of the colleges you apply to, which means ultimately you only need to pick one topic to write about. But it should be something that’s really your own. For me, the topic that was truly mine was flying trapeze and circus. Those activities were so integral to my life that I didn’t know how to write about them at first. Making someone who had never seen a trapeze before understand what I was talking about was quite a challenge. Learning how to tell my story out loud helped me not only figure out where to start but also made me realize how important these activities were to me. Here are a few approaches that helped me jumpstart my topic search and my storytelling skills:
- Get a free StoryBuilder trial and practice telling your stories.
- Go outside and take pictures of your favorite places and then describe them in an essay, why they are important to you.
- Talk about a moment that you consider incredibly influential, that shaped who you are as a person.
There are lots of ways to show how incredible, unique, and worthy of admission you are. Luckily, for the Common App essay, you only need to pick one!
Fear #3: The Blank Page
“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? And what is a magnet, 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 magnet, a line that draws the reader in and makes them want to read more. Plus, once you talk about your accomplishments out loud it is much easier to write them down.
Fear #4: Writing Strong Supplemental Essays
There is nothing worse than thinking you’re done and then flipping the application worksheet over (or clicking to the next screen online) and seeing there’s more to do. That’s what supplemental essays are like. Remember, it’s not a good idea to send the same supplemental essay to all of the colleges you’re applying to; plus, they typically 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 connect. This essay gives you an additional opportunity to show a college what a perfect match you are. Don’t stress over supplements but don’t rush through them at the last minute either. Be honest and real, and use them as a tool to show more facets of yourself.
Fear #5: Activities
What did I even do in high school? Figuring out which activities to put in this section of the Common App 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, clubs, triumphs and failures can seem a bit daunting.
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! You'll go from uncertain to encouraged in a matter of minutes.