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A List of My Many Mess Ups in the College Process

Rtgrove123Rtgrove123 1523 replies275 threads Senior Member
Hey guys,

Well, I just figured I would type out a list of things that I wish I had done differently in the college process to help those around me.

1. Don't spend a ton of time thinking about the hypothetical situations like "Princeton Vs. Penn" before April 1st. Honestly, I spent about 4 hours a week pondering over these stupid hypotheticals and literally all the time was kinda wasted. I learned alot about all these schools; however, I didn't need to know all the info I gathered because I didnt get into a lot of the schools I applied to. Honestly, if your applying to HYPS (and your not a GOD-like applicant like Christiansoldier or Silverturtle), you prbly wont get into the majority of those schools. So just WAIT.

2. I would highly recommend waiting to visit your schools until after you get in. However, I am kinda of two minds about this. One: I wasted time visting Harvard and Princeton because I didn't get into those schools. However, I did visit Penn and that prbly helped me get in as it demonstrated interest and they do take that into account. Moreover, I fell in love with Princeton and that helped fuel my ability to write up essays and work on my app even when I felt discouraged. However, for most applicants, visting before you get in prbly is just a waste of time and money.

3. ESSAYS. Ok, writing college essays is different from writing essays for a lit/lang english course. START RESEARCHING HOW TO WRITE THEM EARLY ON! However, I invested all my time over the summer writing my common app essay and literally didn't branch out. I would recommend against that. Invest yourself in a few schools and try to get those apps done over the summer. WHATEVER YOU DO do not wait until November 22 to begin your essays.

4. I really believe you should attach an essay to your app that discusses something cultural about you. I HIGHLY REGRET NOT DOING THIS. I had a few friends write about how being Spanish and Swedish impacted them and how this culture was infused in their lives and I believe it helped them with top schools. Most colleges are looking for diversity. However, when they see caucasian on your app, they just assume your prbly aren't into that cultural Russian/slavic or French or English stuff that comes with your heritage. They may be more willing to admit you to their school if you contradict this thought.

5. Lastly, MAKE SURE YOUR WHOLE APP COMES TOGETHER. I had a problem with this from the get go. Literally all my ECs were focused on either Econ or the life sciences. However, in all my apps but my Penn LSM app, I did a horrid job of bridging my interests here. Thus, my application probably looked scattered and passionless to many of the schools I applied to. Just make sure that your essays help tie EVERYTHING you've done in school together. This is the BIGGEST thing I could ever suggest you do! Pleace heed this advice!
edited November 2010
17 replies
Post edited by Rtgrove123 on
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Replies to: A List of My Many Mess Ups in the College Process

  • longstreetlongstreet 173 replies40 threads Junior Member
    I agree with pretty much all of this. . .I would, however, advise people to visit schools early if it isn't a huge financial problem; doing so can help you eliminate schools early on that you don't want to go to, can show interest, and can help you pinpoint what you are looking for in a college. Probably the single greatest piece of advice above is starting the essays in the summer. I ended up preparing apps and essays to 20-25 schools and didn't start on essays until mid september; I pulled many many nights with 2 hours of sleep, or less, trying to juggle this many apps with school. Best of luck to all of you who read over this and I hope that you don't make the same mistakes that i made (or that rtgrove made)
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  • rupee2rupee2 332 replies19 threads Member
    I would actually advise visiting a school early if it is financially feasible. I only live about an hour away from Vanderbilt, and my dad (a high school teacher at a different school) invited me on a school visit with some of his high school students in early September. I honestly wasn't even thinking about Vanderbilt.

    Well, when we visited, I fell in love. It was rainy and overcast on the ride to Nashville, but when we got there, it was sunny and the leaves on the trees were a beautiful gold. Our student tour guide really loved her school, you could tell.

    I wouldn't have applied if I hadn't visited. I'm really glad I did.
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  • YaleRocksYaleRocks 72 replies0 threads Junior Member
    I disagree with #2. It is not advisable to visit colleges after acceptance because you will have to miss school when AP exams and final exams are coming up. I made that mistake and I was really stressed making up work and studying for exams at the end of senior year so that colleges won't rescind me b/c I missed school due to college visits. Try to visit early if you can!
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  • christiansoldierchristiansoldier 1311 replies31 threads Senior Member
    With respect to point 1, we should keep in mind that I went 2/5.
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  • Jersey13Jersey13 4589 replies33 threads Senior Member
    Agree with the first part of point 1. I see way too many hypothetical "I'm having a hard time deciding between Yale and Stanford if I get in next year" threads and they are completely useless.
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  • GCmom415GCmom415 703 replies18 threads Member
    I visited the colleges financially affordable in September of my sons Senior year. Then we waited for his acceptances and financial packages. We were able to visit all his schools during Spring Break in early April. It was so much better for us to look at a school as an accepted student knowing we could afford it as well.
    I would always urge a student to appy EA to all schools you are able to.
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  • MSauceMSauce 672 replies3 threads Member
    I actually disagree with the advice about the ethnicity topic. I say write your essay in a way that you come across best, not on a topic that you think theyre looking for. Write about what youre passionate about, not what you think they want you to be passionate about.
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  • SDonCCSDonCC 2324 replies49 threads Senior Member
    If you live near a college and haven't visited it beforehand, they are likely to look down on this as a lack of interest (speaking of those schools that record student interest, not those that don't even have the kids sign in for tours).

    Also, we definitely both ruled out and ruled in schools based on visits junior year.
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  • thatguy100thatguy100 397 replies4 threads Member
    I strongly disagree with waiting to visit. If I had not visited, I would have never known where I wanted to go. I fell in absolute love with Yale on my visit, and my visit to Penn made me despise the place (no offence, it just wasnt right for me)

    However, prior to my visits, my opinion was the complete opposite. Penn was my dream school, I wanted Penn more than Harvard, Yale, anything really. Wharton was my passion and I wanted in more than anything. But, (insert visit here), I found out I really didnt like the place and if I had applied/accepted Penn prior to visiting I really dont think I would have enjoyed my next four years as an undergrad.
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  • glassesarechicglassesarechic 5471 replies16 threads Senior Member
    How did you bring your application together for Penn in ways you didn't for the others?
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  • rotflmaospencerrotflmaospencer 183 replies18 threads Junior Member
    Rtgrove123 wrote:
    Just make sure that your essays help tie EVERYTHING you've done in school together.
    Okay, but how do you do this without making your essay sound like a rehash of your application? I heard that you should avoid addressing topics related to your academic life in your essays except the essay on the commonapp where you elaborate on one ec.
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  • cristilinecristiline 221 replies24 threads Junior Member
    Ugh, stuff like #4 always makes me feel so awful. I can't help it that I'm from a white American family! My parents don't know anything about their heritage--my dad was adopted (his adopted family's culture is basically just "Christian" which neither he nor I am), my mom's mom was adopted, and they're just not really into that kind of stuff.

    I know that advice was directed for people who DO have some cultural background, but am I really going to be viewed negatively because my background isn't diverse?
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  • PhiloBuff7PhiloBuff7 42 replies15 threads Junior Member
    I disagree with #2. If you want to maximize your chances of admission, visit schools early. The reason is that if you end up loving a school that has Early Action or Early Decision, it is most advantageous to apply during either of those rounds of admission. Even if you aren't interested in either of those options, visiting a school early can help you figure out what school you really want to attend (urban or rural, big or small, etc.) Also, when you look at college brochures, you usually aren't getting the full picture. Therefore, I would definitely advise someone to go look at schools early in the college admissions process.
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  • columbialovecolumbialove 114 replies8 threads Junior Member
    I do agree that when you're writing the essays, try and focus a bit on how your culture impacts you. The adcom has a strange affinity for those who show more about where they come from, than those who boast about their individualistic traits.

    Moreover, start the CA essay as early as possible. And put some real work into it. Think over it for days, for months - you'll need a lot of time to write something impressive. But do not think about impressing the adcom as you write your essay - thats the last thing you wanna do. Write what you really feel.

    As far as Supplements are concerned, as long as you're not applying to Stanford, MIT, Harvard or UChicago, you should do just fine :P
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  • JRZMomJRZMom 806 replies6 threads Member

    What's "diverse"?

    If a person is from an Irish, Swedish, Scot Presbyterian or whatever other light skinned kind of background, and it really means something to him & his family ---- they do Bobby Burns' Day if they are of Scottish ancestry, or they play Irish music or compete in Irish step dancing if Irish, or just read up on their families' history or whatever---that isn't any less valid than being Hispanic or Vietnamese or some other group.

    Your family does not know much about their history --- so why don't you sign up on ancestry.com and learn something! I know you mentioned 2 adoptions there, but not all the others were adopted.

    Also, we adopted my second daughter. We only knew what her birth family had told about her ancestry -- however, we were able to teach her about those heritages, take her to ethnic festivals, etc and when she got older, she began to study the language of one of her ancestries. It gave her back at least part of her "roots."

    If she ever wanted to write an essay using this as the topic, I think it would be interesting---of course it would depend on how well she wrote it, and what she said. And, it is up to her. But at least she has the option to do it.
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  • kniteenkniteen 18 replies1 threads New Member
    I'm not a minority and actually wrote my common app essay on my heritage--I'm 100% Dutch, and my grandparents were immigrants. I think it made a really great essay topic, because I had a great motif to follow (how people always mispronounce my name). It's not the most unique, but it's well written and shows ME the person, and how being Dutch has affected me.
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  • saturnnesaturnne 135 replies14 threads Junior Member
    If you're using Word to copy the essays onto the actual application page, make sure you copy the most updates version every time. And make sure you do this the last time, the time you're going to submit, even though you're sure you have the right stuff copied!

    Never be too confident.
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