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Ready for College? 7 Things They Don’t Ask About in Applications

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Jun 19, 2013 10:04:00 AM

I’m waiting for the light to change at 53rd and 6th--rushing rushing--late for my 12:00 lunch. Someone bumps into me, and I look up from my iPhone. Two women in shorts and t-shirts are pointing up at the McGraw-Hill Building, giggling and smiling. On the next corner a man with long gray hair is sitting on a bucket, puffing a cigar. And coming up the stairs from the E train there is a man with fluorescent yellow hair and a flowered hat.    

I encourage you to take the out-of-towner’s approach to your college applications and enjoy each step with a sense of novelty and wonder. You will discover all sorts of things about yourself and your aspirations. There are at least 7 lessons big life skills to be learned from the college admission process:

1. Scheduling: The biggest change from high school to college for many students is organizing your own schedule. College apps are a great opportunity to organize your summer to make sure you get your essays started--maybe even finished--before school starts again, and have time for work, friends and other things that are important to you. 

2. Project management: College admissions officers say that most students’ essays are sloppy and don’t help them in the admission process. The best admission essays are written in phases. So on that schedule you just started, map out time to brainstorm a range of possible topics; try different approaches to key questions; and especially research about colleges so you are applying to schools that are a great fit for you.

3. Self-advocacy: The most important thing you can learn from college admissions essays is how to make a case for who you will be in the future based on what you will do in the past. Whether it’s in an essay or an interview, replace generalizations with specific instances where your actions made a difference in the lives of other people.

4. Friendly competition: Some students freak out when they realize that everyone is applying to the same colleges they are. There are plenty of colleges for everyone, and if you apply to colleges where you are a strong applicant you will be admitted and you are also likely to receive financial aid. And learn to stay connected with your friends even when you both are working towards similar outcomes! 

5. Smart choices: Senior fall can be as stressful as junior spring—especially if you put off all of your college application work until classes start again in September. So summer is the time to start making smart choices: eating healthy foods, getting plenty of sleep, taking care of work responsibilities on time, and scheduling breaks to recharge your physical, mental and emotional batteries.  

6. Budgeting: The biggest stressor for college students is money! Start with a frank conversation with your parents about how much they can contribute to your college education. Make sure to apply to colleges where you are a strong candidate both for admission and financial aid you’re thinking about money, set up checking and saving accounts in your own name and start saving money for college.

7. Iteration: College app essays are a chance to learn about yourself, to try different topics and approaches, to reflect on the key moments that have brought you to today and what you are doing to make a difference now and in the future. This process does not end with college admissions! Research suggests that students who take this process approach, who prepare to succeed by practicing, do succeed more often than other students. Try, try, try...learn all you can from each trial...and then try again. The only time you fail is when you stop trying.

PS: If you don’t know how to do your own laundry, now is a great time to learn!     

Ready to get started on your college apps? Download our free Guide to the new Common Application today.

Topics:college admission