Titan Tattler: The college application roller coaster ride

Published 12:08 am Thursday, April 4, 2024

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By Claire Reinthaler

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — It’s that time of year again. Fourth quarter is here, and other than AP exams, there’s truly only one more thing West seniors have to worry about: committing to a college. Since the vast majority of final college admissions letters were sent out last week, I can now share my full process and experience with the college admissions process and everything I’d have wanted to know as a rising senior going into the college-decision period of my life.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m overly ambitious. I knew right off the bat that I wanted to apply to a lot of very different schools, to make absolutely certain that I would have a bunch of options for myself. I ended up applying to 13 schools, and it was… a lot. I’m glad I did it, but it definitely left me working on college applications for far longer than most of my friends. The thing I will say about applying to a bunch of colleges, is that it actually lends itself well to getting more use out of a fewer number of essays. Sounds contradictory, I know, but it’s true. When you apply that many places, it’s simply inevitable that some of the school-specific essay prompts will repeat across multiple schools. By the end of my application process, for example, I had four different length versions of the same essay because the prompt was used so frequently. Not having to always write a brand new essay was definitely something I appreciated when getting toward the end of applications.

Then comes undeniably the worst part of the process: not the work, not the rejections, but the waiting. The multi-month period between when you submit your applications and when you begin to receive decisions is excruciating, simply because it is entirely out of your hands, and yet it is the perfect amount of time to doubt everything you worked so hard on for the applications. My biggest piece of advice is to try your best not to get in your head too much. It’s definitely easier said than done, but it will help your mental health loads to put that weight off your shoulders.

Now for the all important decisions. Everyone’s experience is different of course, but I’ll speak to mine, because it was very much a tale of two decision periods. I applied to nine schools early action, and I got those decisions back between mid-November and mid-January. And I had a perfect record. Accepted to seven of the nine schools, most with scholarships, and deferred to regular decision for the remaining two. After receiving the final letter of that bunch, my acceptance to UNC Chapel Hill, in mid-January, I then had to wait another two months, until mid-March, to begin getting the rest of my decisions back, my two deferrals from early action and my four regular decision schools. This time the results were very different. I was rejected from the next five schools I heard back from, including my first rejection being from the school to which I would have been a third generation legacy and that I grew up loving and rooting for, and waitlisted at the sixth. But don’t let these results deceive you. This had everything to do with these schools’ prestige and exclusivity, and little to nothing to do with the fact that they were regular decisions. All of these schools had acceptance rates below 15 percent, and due to the spike in number of applicants this year, many of those numbers dropped to below 10 percent, if they hadn’t been already. And while yes, getting rejected from Notre Dame, my legacy school, was really hard, I’m ultimately glad it was my first rejection, because it softened the blow of each of the following rejections.

The moral of the story here is that the college application and decision process is a series of very high highs and very low lows. Knowing this going in, however, is vastly helpful. Prepare yourself; go for those reach schools, but also have your mid-range and safe options to fall back on if things don’t go your way. Remember that there’s only so much you can do, and that nothing in college admissions committees’ process is personal, no matter how much they try to make it that way. Your rejections take nothing away from your accomplishments in high school, let alone your own personal worth. Keep your chin up. You’re going to do great.