This article goes out to all the seniors in high school sitting hunched over their laptops, crying from the stress of applying to colleges. If you’re not there yet… you probably will be soon. Or, at least, that’s how the process worked for me. To me, sending in applications to universities across the country was so intimidating: I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do with my life. I was terrified of rejection, haunted by the idea of settling for something less than what I wanted. But at the time, the idea of what I wanted was so vague and so multifaceted. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find the “perfect fit.” There’s so much pressure on choosing the college you’re “destined” to go to, and that kind of pressure is the kind that never seems to ease.
Trust me, I’ve been there. I was the student that applied to 10 universities all over the country with no indication of where I was going to end up. My best friend had me beat at 23 colleges she applied to, and she was in the same position: lost, stressed, pressured. What we both wanted was a clear-cut path we could embark on, unbothered by all the obstacles that come with applying to colleges. But that’s not how life works, and as cutthroatas applications are, they redirect you to where you’re meant to be, and where you fit best.
It’s incredibly daunting to apply to college, and I’m not going to sugarcoat that aspect. It’s a lot of arduous, heavy work, and it’s difficult to narrow yourself down to fit the application’s standards and limitations. How do you represent the entirety of yourself in a single essay, let alone an ACT score or GPA? That, right there, is the catch: you can’t. You can only represent a part of yourself in your applications, an aspect of your personality that fits right into the atmosphere of the university you’re applying to. Make it your most authentic piece of work. Be honest, be raw. You want to choose a college that chooses you: not just the “you” that looks good on paper, but the unapologetic, real “you.” That’s what colleges are really looking for: what sets you apart from the thousands of other students with the same GPA and ACT score. That’s how they dictate who is truly going to be a perfect fit for their campus.
I’m not necessarily giving out a bullet point list of instructions on how to apply for colleges, or how to write the perfect college essay. I’m giving the advice I wish someone had given me when I was applying for colleges: Be authentic and unapologetically bold. Don’t fear for what the future holds, because you will end up where you’re supposed to be. With that being said, work hard for scholarships and apply to honors programs for as many colleges as you can. I promise the reward is a thousand times worth the effort. Tour campuses and try to figure out how you feel when you walk through the university grounds: does it feel like home? Are you excited to be there? Do you feel empowered with all the tools this university is offering to you?
Every single one of you reading this will make a difference in this world. Use that power wisely, and with good intention. Your college journey is one of a million journeys you will embark on in your lifetime, and it will be what you make it. Enjoy every second of the process of figuring out where you’re meant to be and who you’re meant to be.