The college process can be extremely scary: all the new jargon you need to learn, an infinite number of options, and the intense workload. It often feels like the best idea is to just put it off. But leaving for college or whatever you choose to do post-high school does not have to be so daunting. To help our fellow juniors get a head start, here is what we wished we had known before we applied to college:
1M+H: Switch up your surroundings: go to a coffee shop or maybe just change rooms in your house.
A change in scenery can go a long way when you’re writing so many essays. We recommend going to a coffee shop or cafe, but even moving from a bedroom to the living room can actually help a lot.
Our best coffee shops in LA for doing college work:
- Bluestone Lane
- 12186 Ventura Blvd, Studio City
- 176 South La Brea Ave, Los Angeles
- Home Brewed Bar
- 39 N Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena
- Bru Coffeebar
- 1866 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles
- Wild Oak Cafe
- 3111 E Chevy Chase Dr, Glendale
- Philz Coffee
- 146 S Lake Ave #106, Pasadena
- 6430 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles
- 252 S Brand Blvd Suite A, Glendale
2M: Pace yourself: come up with a routine for the number of essays you have to write!
Looking back on the fall of senior year, I really don’t feel like I killed myself doing college essays. I got into a routine of writing about one supplement a week and then took another week to review and edit. I recommend writing your longest supplement first. That way you can copy and paste bits and pieces that you may reuse later.
3H: Make a list of deadlines
Once I knew exactly which schools I was applying to, I made a list of all of my deadlines and taped it on my closet door. I marked which were early action versus regular, the prompts for every supplemental essay, and the word count for each piece of writing. Seeing my deadlines laid out in a clear and organized way really cemented them in my mind. Plus, checking them off as I went along was really satisfying.
4M+H: Ask for recommendations early (especially Ian!)
Teachers get pretty upset when we ask for recommendations late. Since you want to make sure your recommenders are as excited as possible when writing about you, make sure you ask them early. You will likely be asking your junior-year teachers, so let them know ahead of time. This should be anywhere between spring of junior year and September of senior year. Remember, verbal confirmation is not enough. In the Common App, you can assign certain teachers as recommenders—this is where they will see which ones they need to write.
5M: Apply EA to as many places as you can
Applying Early Action is the easiest way to show a school you’re interested in attending and it can boost your chances a lot! You can apply to as many schools as you want to early (except specific single choice schools like Stanford) and I recommend you do as many schools as you can. I was able to apply to my top five schools early which allowed me to be completely done with the college process by December! While your friends are still working on their applications, you can sit back and relax.
6H: Create a folder where you bookmark all your college links
This sounds simple but it really helps! As I researched colleges and worked on my application, I found myself referring to many different websites. My computer tends to crash when it gets overwhelmed and it was super frustrating having to go back and search for all my tabs. I recommend putting them all in one bookmarked folder: articles, sample essays, college websites, etc.
7H: Strike the right balance when doing essay research
When I was writing my essays, I found myself obsessively reading as many examples as I could find on the internet. This is a tricky subject– it’s important to understand the expectations of a college application essay, but sometimes reading the work of others can confuse you even more. It sounds cliche, but the best advice I can give in terms of supplemental essays is just be yourself. Trust your own writing voice! Definitely think hard about this work, but don’t overthink it to the point of becoming paralysed.
8M: Study over the summer and get your testing done ASAP
Admittedly I did not want to give up my summer to study for a test that I thought was so arbitrary and silly. But soon after I got into a routine, I realized giving up a few hours of my morning while my friends were sleeping really wasn’t too bad and it is so much nicer when you feel prepared for these tests. What’s also great about testing early is that you have multiple test dates during the year that you can take if you didn’t like your initial score, which I also did. I was done testing by October and I think that took a lot of weight off my shoulders.
9M: Don’t feel like you have to run yourself into the ground
Often times I felt like I was doing something wrong when going about my college process because I wasn’t falling apart. I thought that I should be killing myself and working 24/7 when in reality, if you’re managing your time well, it shouldn’t be so stressful. Give yourself breaks and don’t feel like you have to sacrifice your life over these essays.