Her college application is in the mail – finally
Ah, November. Imagine leaves turning color, families gathering together, and warming your feet in front of a toasty fire. Now scratch that image from your head. Try this one: sick, exhausted, agonizing over an essay until two o’clock in the morning. For many high school seniors, this is what November is all about. College applications have become a reality rather than a reference to some indistinct future- “This will look good on your college application,” or “When you fill out your college application, they’ll want to know….” The essay (or essays, in the case of many universities) is just one of several steps in the process. It is one more thing to cross off along with family information, academic honors, awards received, teachers’ recommendations and my personal least favorite, financial background. Not knowing anything about economics makes it difficult to predict my income based on pay stubs and tax returns. In my opinion, any 17- or 18-year old that can make sense of it all should be granted automatic admission anyway.
When I sat down to begin my first college application, I was amazed at the length of it; it was so short! I couldn’t believe that these dreaded forms, which I had put four years into preparing for, were only four pages long. For some reason, this was more intimidating than the extensive application I had expected. Four pages in which to prove that I was a capable candidate. I read the application through, and discovered that in the four pages they had managed to cram everything they could possibly need to know. If it couldn’t be included somewhere on one of those pages, it was of no use. The challenge that faced me was to try to convey myself accurately, so that they would get a real glimpse of my character. Of course, every other applicant is trying to do the exact same thing.
The best way to express something you feel is important about your personality or experiences is through the personal essay. Topics for these range from the very vague (anything you would like the college to know) to the very specific (an intellectual subject that interests you). There are all kinds of advice as to how to write the essay. One source will say to write on a topic that will most likely impress the admissions officers reading it; another will say to avoid this above all else. All of them say to write from your heart, but when it is nearing the deadline and you have not even begun, it is easy to put aside this piece of advice and write simply to complete the essay. Especially after the second or third essays, the most important thing seems to become that they will be stamped and in the mail. Still, every sentence entails long deliberation. By the time I was satisfied with my essays, I had read and revised each of them at least four times.
As much time is committed to the essay and the painstaking procedure of filling out the application itself, the moment at which seniors experience their most profound panic is when they seal their envelopes and carry them to the mailbox, stamped and addressed. Watching my own disappear through the slot, I cringed. It wasn’t until the next day that I relaxed, and realized that as far as that particular application was concerned, I was done. All I could do was wait, and waiting, if stressful, allows peace of mind in that there is nothing else you can do, no more revisions to make.
There is one upside to the college application process. After becoming accustomed to getting by on four or five hours of sleep a night, the more typical six or seven that most high schoolers get are an incredible indulgence. A few questions to answer for English? No problem. After all, what is that compared to a personal essay? We seniors now know the true meaning of stress. Everything from here on is downhill. There might even be enough time to enjoy those family gatherings and warm fireplaces after all. Though I think we missed the fall colors.
Erin Johnson, 17, lives in Grass Valley and is a senior at Nevada Union High School. Write her in care of Youth Page, The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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