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An Open Letter To My Past Self: What I Wish I Had Known While Applying To Colleges

My whole life I prepared myself for college. Clubs, leadership activities, volunteer work- everything was centered around college. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every activity that I was involved in, college had always been this goal that was in my mind. Whether it’s college, community college or a career, everyone’s path is unique to them and no paths are better than others. My story follows going a college route, and as applications are beginning to close down, I thought I would share some of the things I wished I would have known before and after I applied. 

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Reflecting on how I completed my applications, my older sister and school counselor immensely helped me by encouraging me to start early. By utilizing this advice, as soon as applications opened, I began writing. By the time school started, I had a solid foundation for each of my essays. If you find yourself starting later, do not worry. Just be sure to know when each of your deadlines are, and give yourself ample time to write and edit. Planning ahead and spacing out your application work makes managing school and other activities so much easier. I also scheduled weekly or bi-weekly meetings with my school counselor to talk about my applications and how I was feeling at the time. Having someone understand what I was going through who would give me honest advice made me feel much stronger, and I was much more able to set my expectations realistically. 

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When it comes time for asking for letters of recommendation, having two or three teachers in your life that you’ve built strong connections with makes the process of asking and receiving letters much less stressful. After you have found who you want to write your letters, don’t be afraid to ask them to review your essays. The more people you have look over them, the better. Fresh eyes catch hidden grammatical errors and will help you build the strongest application possible. 

If you find yourself ready to submit your applications, make sure you have uploaded and completed every form. I had my school counselor check to ensure I had filled out everything so I would not be rejected for an incomplete application. Once you are fully ready, push that button and celebrate! You did it! I really wish I would have allowed myself to celebrate every part of this process, because this is a huge life step. Once you have submitted, go make yourself an ice cream sundae! 

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While you’re in the waiting period to hear back from admissions, what helped me was keeping busy by working and involving myself fully in extracurricular activities. By constantly moving, I had less time to think about my applications that were beyond my control. Once it comes time that everyone starts hearing back from colleges, do not compare yourself to others! I know this is easier said than done, but you must accept that everyone is on a unique path, and try to find the confidence that you are on the right road to pursue your dreams. Everything really does work out the way it's supposed to, and don’t be afraid of your plans changing. For instance, I thought I was going to go to UC Berkeley until two days before my graduation when I got off the waitlist for UCLA! Trust your gut and go where you feel it. I wish you the best of luck!

Ava Burford is a junior at UCLA. She is passionate about uplifting others through her writing, philanthropic work and blog. She is apart of the sorority Pi Beta Phi and enjoys running and being with her family in her free time.
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