You Think You Know, But You Have No Idea: The College Process as it Happens

Maggie Odier

Staff Writer

“Senior year is the best,” they say. Well, let me tell you one thing. They lie. Going into senior year, I was pumped. I had come off a summer of camp, vacations, tanning by the lake, and I was ready to be a senior. I envisioned myself being a perfect senior, that person that underclassmen look up to but still fear.  I was excited for the traditions that came with senior year: the retreat where we all become best friends, the endless Fridays of senior treats, the best seating in the house. But I was not at all prepared for what I got.

After the first week, I was done. “How many days until summer?” I thought, but then quickly realized that it had been 3 days of classes. The senior hallways buzzed with question as us seniors wondered why we had had so much work. Wasn’t the first week supposed to be a recap of how to count to 10 and say hello in various foreign languages? As the days turned to weeks and we continued to work our butts off, we learned that this was not the exception, it was the rule. Senior year is hard. While the handpicked classes were more unique and enjoyable than some other years (cough, cough freshman year global cities) the amount of work steadily grew. Free periods were lifesavers, until College Counseling. We seniors are lucky, because we have college counselors who are constantly working to make our lives easier. But that doesn’t mean that college counseling quells any fears. It is just a constant reminder of how much we have to do, how little time we have to do it, and how most of it was due yesterday.

Saturdays have been stolen, as well. Rising early at 10 o’ clock in the morning, my Saturdays have morphed into a blur of colleges, essays, and scores. What you don’t think about is the amount of decisions that need to be made. What do you like about this place? How did you feel about this part? Who do you want to study with? All of these questions need answers, so you can narrow down the list of 2,363 4-year institutions to a list of 5, to which you will apply. Then you need to find the dates that you need to apply by. You need to find all of the supplemental questions. You need to decide if you want to apply early. You need to schedule college rep meetings for all of the colleges that you love, like, and don’t know about. You need to fill out forms to go to these meetings. You need to go, ask questions, and essentially learn about an entire university in less than 50 minutes.

Going into senior year, I thought I was done with standardized testing. I had taken the SAT in March, the ACT in April, and the SAT subject tests in May. My scores were in the range of my favorite universities, and I was floating on cloud 9. Until I looked closer. One school, my favorite school, requires ALL testing, not just one or the other, which was a problem for me, as my SAT scores are a bit, well, bad. On top of that, they require 3 SAT subject tests. My subject test scores were even worse. Throughout the summer, my mom would talk about tutoring and retaking the tests. But I couldn’t hear it through my daze of sun and fun. Let me give you a piece of advice: don’t wait until senior year. It will come around and bite you in the butt.

And now, onto my favorite part—the college essay. Before this mysterious process began, I wondered why so many seniors fretted and worried about the college essay. After all, it was just one essay that they needed to write about themselves. How hard could that be? Well, young Maggie, what you don’t know is that there is NOT just one essay. There are these tricky things called supplements, individual essays that you must write for each college that you apply to. Yes, you did hear me right. For each college that you apply to, you must write 1, 2, maybe even 3 essays. How does one do that and stay sane? Well, it’s a 2-part answer.

1. Pre-write. A lot. Take a Saturday to write a rough draft. Come back to it a couple days later and edit it. Then give it to someone else and ask if it sounds like you. Make sure that it shows something that the admissions officers don’t know about you. Make it funny if you are funny, but don’t push it. Avoid all clichés and corny sentiments. Make it snappy. Make it memorable.

2. Many seniors don’t stay sane during this process. If you ever see a senior roaming the halls with a distant look on their face, DON’T ENGAGE! They probably have cracked from all the work. It happens. Sometimes, as seniors, we need to let off a little bit of steam. Some do it through sports, some do it through activities, and some, like me, do it by watching movies and curling up in the fetal position.

So what have I learned through the college process? Well, I learned that senior treats are the light at the end of a very hectic tunnel. I learned that sleep is not something that you can afford and that there is no room for senioritis. I haven’t heard the word mentioned once. Our grade, despite the stress and anxiety and work, has become closer. We have become somewhat of a united front against the evils of applying to college. So, way to go class of 2014.