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Freshman Experience 5: Guess What Time It Is?

Looking back on a year ago, I remember shuffling through names of colleges in a book that listed the “Top 300 Colleges” to check out. That pretty much indicated that I had no idea where I wanted to apply to. Currently, I have a few friends that are in their last year of high school and they are starting to get a bit high-strung. It is the beginning of November, which means that the University of California (UC) application is due at the end of the month. Not only that, but they are applying to various private colleges through “Common App”; most of these applications are due for submission early next year in January. For all the 2012 seniors that are applying to college this year, if you plan to apply to more than 10 schools, this can be quite the mission. Let’s face it: you’re young, having fun in the last year of high school, trying to maintain a solid academic record, and in the meantime college thoughts are swimming around in your head.

So how do you determine what school is right for you?

It was so exciting to be at a USC football game or walk across the famous quad at UCLA. Though you may be able to see yourself there, there are so many other factors when considering colleges. Keep in mind that YOU choose the college, the college does not choose you. It was the hardest for me to be honest with my needs. Did I like a smaller campus or one that was full of 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students? Consider what possible majors or programs that you are interested in and find an institution that can cater to your curiosity. Location is key; I was leaning towards staying in the West Coast – California, yay! – and studying somewhere near the city or suburbs. However, I did have various friends who were interested in attending college in rural areas – it’s just whatever appeals to you! Please do not feel alone in your quest for your “nirvana”. I started visiting my college counselor my junior year, but it is never too late to seek help. Not only did I form tight bonds with people in the College Center, but also learned to know exactly what I wanted for my future. So ask your family, friends, and any other trusty adult (teachers are always great!). Based on their experiences, you can form your own opinions and from there, continue to research. Leave room for a variety of colleges because it is always nice to apply to four types of school: match, safety, reach and dream.

P.S: There is still time to visit colleges. Summer is usually an ideal time to travel to colleges and check out the atmosphere, but don’t be discouraged to visit now. Try to fit a visitation to a local college – or distant one (for an excuse to go on a mini vacation!) into your busy schedule.

Now, you’re filling out your college applications. They ask you about your major. DON’T FREAK OUT.

Stay open-minded. There is nothing wrong with clicking the bubble next to the major that you are possibly interested in. There is also nothing wrong with deciding to be undeclared. Know that colleges understand that behind millions of computer screens sit young adults who are ready to explore different subject matter. At Oxy, students have until the end of their 2nd year to declare their major. What I love the most is that everyone here encourages you to explore your various interests; no matter what classes you take, it still counts towards graduation, so it won’t hurt to try a fun art or history class. Do not feel pressured to be absolutely set on a career path. If you already have one in mind, that’s great! If not, there is time in college to roam around, so don’t worry. Also, do not think that whatever you major in will determine what jobs you will be able to attain after college. In fact, I recall learning in a small seminar program at UCLA that about 90% of those that apply to medical school are actually English majors. Surprised? In the end, study what peaks your interests; you will excel and enjoy life at the same time, I promise.

Wait, what about your personal statement?
This can be a tough one. I admit, I cried to my college counselor because I was not confident in my ability to convey my emotions and story to a complete stranger. It took a while to feel comfortable enough to put my deepest thoughts on paper. Mind you, I did not have a miracle story to write about, nor have I ever saved someone’s life. However, I did write about what meant the most to me. Let’s be real, don’t make one up. It is supposed to be a personal statement, and I found this time to be a good experience.  I was never one to keep a journal, but expressing what I thought was relevant to me was pretty profound. A lot of brainstorming led to different branches of thought that led to good reflections on the past 17 years of my life at the time. Don’t force yourself to write about something that you’d think the admissions officers would like to hear. It makes the whole process a lot more arduous than it should be. YOU ARE UNIQUE, so give yourself enough time to appreciate that and truthfully address the prompt. Time, time, time is all that we need sometimes in order to grasp at an idea that was in our face the whole time. What’s even better is that sometimes, an essay that you have already written for an application can apply to another one if you tweak it. That’s always a nice bonus!
P.S: Check out the college’s mission statement. That way, you know what the college is striving for and implement that within a short answer question.

Ready to submit? Nervous? I bet.
If you took your time to thoughtfully fill out your college applications, don’t stress it! You made it till the end, so take a deep breath and click that submit button (after you have thoroughly reviewed everything, of course). Hopefully you would have said all that you wanted to and showcased yourself as the great student that you are. Now sit back, relax and wait until college ADMISSIONS roll by in March and April. It can either be a good or a bad time, but keep your head up.

In the meantime, good luck with college applications and such. Enjoy your last year in high school as you slowly succumb to senioritis because it will flash before your eyes. And hey, maybe I’ll see you at Oxy next year. Anyways, keep on shopping for those secondary institutions and DO EVERYTHING BY THE STATED (DEADLY) DEADLINES. Trust me, you do not want to miss one. Be responsible and follow deadlines because there are many more once you step foot on your destined campus. 

How did you get through college admissions? Were you one of the lucky ones that breezed through Early Decision? Are you a high school gal thinking about Oxy? Leave your comments below! 

Image credit: USC Image - DanMcNeely (Flickr), header image - Gizmocrat (Flickr)

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