If you’re a senior in high school, there comes a moment when you must sit down and figure out who you really are. You have to figure out how to craft that into an essay that sounds appealing enough to adults that you can be accepted into a school. In summary, there are 5 major stages with steps and processes that you will go through throughout the college application process.
Stage 1: Nothing But Hope
This stage usually happens beginning of your high school career until the start of senior year.
All those YouTube videos titled “What to Bring to College,” “College Freshman Advice,” “Dorm Room Tour” really prepared you for the image of college. You now know to not bring your whole closet, an ironing board, all your yearbooks since Preschool. These informational videos make you figure out how you want to decorate your dorm. Like what color scheme you would want to follow, what posters and pictures you’ll want to take and how you’ll organize it. You know exactly what makeup organizer you want to buy, what mirror to bring, and what pattern your bedspreads will look like. You feel on top of the world and you surprisingly feel ready to tackle the college application process.
Stage 2: The Making of the College List
Whether it’s because you think campus is pretty, the school colors match well, the school spirit, or even the party scene, you start the filter down the schools you would like to go to into a list. It may start off with about 30 schools. It might go down to 4, maybe only 22. There is no right number. If you apply to over 18 schools, you feel awkward telling your friends that. But if you apply to only 3 then you start to question your self-confidence. This is where your self-worth and typical insecurities begin to dwindle. Your constant daydreams of “college” stop when you get shot back down to reality. And have to make more realistic choices, tying in your academics, extracurriculars, financial aid. All this starts adding to the stress that will increase over time.
Stage 3: Editing, Crying, Second Thoughts, More Crying
This stage lasts the longest. You start your college essays, stressing whether the school is on the common app or on the school’s own website. Any extra step in an application like an extra writing supplement or short answer questions would make you reconsider your choices. Some schools don’t ask for an essay, you begin to reconsider again. You submit your applications one by one slowly. Then you freak out and possibly apply to one more safety, despite the other few safeties you already turned in.
You complain to your friends about how upset you are and how stressed out life is. Yet you still find time to go out and treat yourself because you deserve it. Your parents might try to be understanding with your newfound stress, but they won’t understand it fully just because college is now so much more competitive to get into. You could get into more arguments more often.
You shy away from conversations about college with friends or family. Because you feel overwhelmed and you don’t want anyone belittling your choices of schools and potential major.
You’ve already lost a lot of sleep by staying awake. Wondering constantly about what your future will be like and whether you will be accepted to any college at all.
You might not try as hard on a few writing supplements just because you rely on your other applications more. And you don’t think of the consequences. You probably submit your last few applications an hour before the deadline.
Stage 4: The Waiting
First semester has ended, and so has the college application process. You are sitting with your laptop nearby. You are constantly googling when application statuses are updated and results are out. And you mark in your phone’s calendar the release dates. You might hear back from your safeties first. And maybe it might be your first few acceptances. But your palms still get sweaty when you think about your target schools. You still have to manage to do well in school to make sure you can still graduate and attend college. Every adult you talk to probably gives your their advice, even though you know what’s done is done, and you can’t go back to fix your application.
You usually pass this time by distracting yourself and going out much more, especially since it’s second semester senior year by now.
Stage 5: Acceptances, Rejections, And Everything In Between
Your friends are getting accepted into great schools, and maybe you are too, but you focus on their achievements that your rejections hurt ten times more. And you begin to compare yourself to your friends, and you might wish you were smarter, did more community service, or did something more spectacular in your high school career. You wish to change the past. Maybe you were waitlisted at a few schools and you contemplate many nights whether to accept or decline the offer.
You might not get accepted to your dream school and you wish you applied to more schools or tried a bit harder. You check your emails during the day out in public, maybe in front of close friends, and that is the biggest mistake. Although you may have a handful of acceptances that many people praise you for getting, your one or many rejections become all you obsess over. You think about what your peers, friends, family will say about where you might end up going.
Although this isn’t always the case, you could have gotten into every school you’ve applied to. You could have gotten off the waitlist of your dream school, or have decided to take a gap year to figure out your passions. The process of applying to college causes lots of stress, emotions, and vulnerability. Everyone experiences adversity in some way.
But after this timeline passes and you commit to a college, you begin to learn more about your future school. And will slowly begin Stage 1 again, where you have this new excitement to the start of the next four years. You can obsess by buying college apparel and changing your Instagram bio with your school’s name. You look up videos on youtube what the school dorms look like. And what restaurants are nearby, and the events that take place there. Any school can give you the best time. It all depends on what you do there and what you learn there.
Through this whirlwind of emotions, the ups and downs make this process one of the hardest things you go through in life, but the reward is irreplaceable. You learn so much about yourself: about what makes you tick, what makes you emotional, your vulnerability. All this makes you one step closer to figuring out just who you are.