Last night, I felt heartened listening to the Applerouth college admissions panel on post/COVID college admissions landscape. It reaffirmed a hopeful facet of our current tragedy, which is acute here in New York City: that some things could change for the better– namely, increased access to higher ed, a more genuine and equitable admissions process. And some really great essays. 🙂
The warm panelists spoke about all aspects of admissions, but at Essay Intensive, we’re always thinking about the written portions. And as a writing coach, I was thrilled to hear how excited the panelists were for the essays to come! They were encouraged by what gets stripped away, the pretense in applications, the excess of striving to be The Best and Most. But they are even more pumped about what gets expressed: students having no choice but to be their genuine selves telling colleges who they are–without the Circus of activities and commitments speaking for them.
Smaller lives that mean a bigger deal.
The panelists had some concrete advice for high school students of all ages at this time of stay-at-home orders, that aligns fully with what I’m always telling them. This is not about what or how to study, and it’s not about scores and metrics:
- Do something goofy!
- Enjoy whatever you can
- Work on your Time management
- Read books
- Spend time with your parents or family– have those deep conversations, have the difficult conversations– don’t put off meaningful conversations.
- Be guided by your passion to learn– and learn something!
This is forced self-reflective time like you might *never* have again in the same way! (And hopefully not for the same reason). And (honest) self-reflection is college admissions (essay) gold!
What do you do when you suddenly have time? When left to your own devices? What’s inherently interesting to you? These are practically college essay prompts, living in your head and day to day decision making.
The pay-to-play stuff is not what’s actually impressive to the admissions panelists. Instead, it’s about: what did you choose to do with your discretionary time? And what does that show us about who you are and what you care about?
How have you taken charge of your education? How do you get yourself back on track in traditional learning environment? What are you doing, now, to be sure you’re prepared to enter higher education?
Present yourself well throughout application to show you’re worthy of this competitive admissions process and entering into institution that will challenge you.
Redefine Leadership. It is not just “I’m the president of this…I’m the VP of that.” Not at all. Maybe you took care of a sick family member, Maybe you went out there, with your mask, and got a part-time job– because you needed to, because you wanted to. Maybe you figured out how to fix up lawn mowers, and started mowing people’s lawns. It’s about initiative and responsibility.
It’s the unique stories that will come out of this time that matter most, and so do the unique individuals it will mold. Perhaps we will emerge or move forward with a better sense, if I’m super optimistic, that this world could and should belong equally to all of us. That we must educate ourselves, and simultaneously take care of and uplift each other. Especially those who have faced the most barriers and suffering. We should know who that is and try to make a difference. That can start with listening to each other’s stories.
Finally: That (Drumroll) we must discover what is meaningful to us, and not apologize for it. Figure out how to talk about it.
Could Test-optional shift bias and elitism in admissions? Great. I’m all for it.
Could AP tests taken from home mean more students participate? Great, I’m all for it.
And the cool thing? The panelists are too. They know some institutions have fenced kids out. They know they have, sometimes, prioritized the wrong things. These next admissions cycles could improve everyone’s chances at inclusive education.
So what should you do to build your application? Two very simple things!
My first piece of advice: journal.
Journal! By hand, on a phone, on a computer– it doesn’t matter so long as you won’t lose track of it. It can be totally scrappy journaling. It can be chock full of grammar mistakes and incomplete thoughts. The point is: you’re tracking your days, your mind, your feelings, events. Your dreams. That thing someone said. Your reactions to the news. Your negotiations with your family. All of it. Journal every day, at least once. If you’re journal-shy, set a timer for 5 minutes, and write without stopping until the timer goes off.
My second piece of advice: Independent learning!
Ask yourself, what do I care about?
What about when no one’s looking? If school NEVER opened again, and no one told me what I had to study, what would I learn about?
If I had to prove my excellence ONLY through pursuing honestly what I deeply cared about, what would I do? What else would be important to know– to me? In what areas would I need to pursue supplementary knowledge?
Write down your answers, all of them, even if they seem contradictory or impossible. Send us this list! We can help you curate learning goals.
My third piece of advice has nothing to do with paper: move every day! Exercise in some form, so that you get deeper breaths, better oxygen flow, and uplifted state of mind. No one’s going to ask you about your exercise habits in your admissions process, and that’s precisely why you should do it– taking care of ourselves is one form of self respect. If nothing else, Youtube has your back with a kajillion at-home exercise videos for free.
This is great news and all, but I need help living my best application life!
Ready to tell your story? Want some help shaping that journal? Need a guide to create or refine your learning goals? Need help figuring out how to get better exercise? Contact us. We got you covered.