October: Early Action, Early Decision
November 9, 2015
That moment when you click the submit button for your first college application is truly magical. I remember feeling drained, yet relieved that it was finally over. One college down. A week later, I clicked that submit button a second time. Same button, same feeling.
Underclassmen beware. Applying for Early Decision is a daunting task, but applying for both Early Decision and Early Action can be beyond stressful. There comes a feeling of panic, as you are scrambling last minute to complete just about everything. I guess what ends up being the most difficult is all the writing that comes with applying for a university.
And by writing, I mean those dreaded supplement essays and personal statement you have to complete for private universities. They are what force many to search out college consulting groups.
The personal statement itself is a nightmare. There are five prompts on the Common Application for the personal statement and all are worded to have applicants share that part of them that goes beyond the grades, test scores and extracurricular activities.
Then come the supplements, which typically ask either general questions such as, “Why do you want to attend our University?” or specific questions regarding your major, life, or thinking style (The University of Chicago has a supplementary essay prompt that says “Find x.”)
For me, the college writing was a struggle. I had expectations of writing a true masterpiece that would have towered over what I was normally capable of. I believed that my personal statement would put me above and beyond everyone else and show colleges that I am a special kid that they would be crazy not to accept. And thus, I struggled because I realized I was trying to write in a style that was not mine. Because I looked at everything in terms of college and not in sharing who I am, I had tried to become that perfect student I always hoped to be and it was obvious that my writing was not sincere.
My struggles and near breakdown before my application deadlines taught me a critical lesson. I should be myself. I should not hide my weaknesses and failures in fear of having them work against me. And above all, I should not exaggerate my strengths (or weaknesses) or transform myself into someone I am not.
Hopefully, my experience can help others who are also struggling right now, either with completing the personal statements for UCs or finishing up the supplements for private universities. You do not have to prove that you are different. It does not have to be proved, as everyone is special in his or her own way. The trick is to throw away all outside influences and write something that you and only you believe in.
With eight privates left to apply to, I know that from now on, the writing section will be a whole lot easier with that knowledge in mind.