Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

The Human Side of College Admissions

2 minute read

There is no shortage of information telling students what they need to do to get into a “good college.” Average GPAs, test scores, numbers and types of activities, essay topics, recommendation letter content. The list goes on and on. But what about the personal side? What about the importance of your mental health and sanity throughout the process? Isn’t it just as important to stay true to yourself instead of shapeshifting into someone you’re not to “look impressive?” What if this journey could be fun for you, even exciting? What would that look like and how can you maintain joy in your process instead of the stress-filled one that most students feel they have to go through? Here are some suggestions to make your journey as enjoyable as possible!

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Do Some Soul Searching:

I mentioned maintaining joy through your process, but that would mean you need to know what brings you joy in the first place. Take some time to reflect and really dig deep. It may take a while to drown out the noise of what you’re “supposed” to be doing in your teenage years, so don’t rush this part. It doesn’t need to be what makes your family, your friends, or anyone else happy–this is about YOU! Are you obsessed with skiing or fishing? Are the roaring 20s your favorite decade? Is everything from Kenyan culture the coolest thing you’ve ever seen? Does picking your most cherished mug out of the cupboard for your favorite drink make your heart happy? Whatever your special interest or passion is, you should embrace and celebrate it. Don’t second guess yourself or overthink this; it’s all about what brings you joy!

Be Joyful Throughout the Process:

As you’re thinking of what classes to take or what activities to pursue, keep what you value at the forefront of your mind. If there is not a bone in your body that wants to do any type of public speaking, then there is absolutely no need to join the debate team, DECA, or any other organization that requires it. However, if the idea of being your own boss one day gets you buzzing with excitement, spend your extra time exploring that. This could look like interviewing entrepreneurs, reading books or listening to podcasts from others who share their own journey, or just taking the leap and trying to start your own small business! Always been interested in Japanese culture, but your school doesn’t offer that as a language? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Stay curious and think about how you could incorporate your passions. There are summer programs, apps, online courses, and so much more available to you past what is at your school. Take advantage of any and all opportunities that excite you!

To be honest, many schools are going to have similar options and offerings. It’s important to make sure they have the basics that you are looking for, of course, but the best way to keep the process simple and enjoyable is to pay attention to what brings you joy. Does one college offer certain classes that sound super interesting to you- that you would genuinely be excited to take? Does another one have programs in other countries that have always been on your bucket list? What about the school that has direct partnerships with companies that would be a dream to work for? How about the one that lets you create whatever you’d like in their 3D printing lab- for free?! Try flipping the script on college research and instead of just focusing on rankings, search for schools that have what you already know you love! Some ideas to get you started: “colleges that partner with Google,” “colleges that have cadaver labs,” or “colleges that prioritize sustainability.”

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Maintain Momentum throughout the process

Completing the applications to colleges can be hard. That’s why it’s crucial to stay organized and balance this important but daunting task on top of the homework, sports, jobs, family obligations, and activities you already have. Try to keep fun and excitement at the forefront. If you are working on essays and the college is asking you “Why are you applying here?” and you really can’t think of anything… it’s okay to admit that maybe that’s not the place for you! Suppose there is nothing that really excites you about that institution; that might be the reason enough not to apply. Find a different college that DOES make you feel excited or just apply to one less school and give you back some of your time (that is joyful in itself)! Feeling like it’s hard to balance your personal life while working on applications? Are you a social butterfly? Have writing parties! That may sound cheesy, but many of your friends are dealing with the same obligations as you. So why not get together, bring some snacks, and agree to work for 45-50 minutes at a time, then take 10-15 minutes to get up, stretch, and talk about something totally unrelated? Do this a few times and you’ll be able to get a lot done AND spend quality time with your friends. Are you a nature lover, but feel like you can’t get out as much because you’re buried under your apps? Why don’t you use WiFi to copy essay prompts into a document, go for a hike, find a beautiful rest stop, and start drafting responses while being inspired by your surroundings? Does music bring you joy? Listen to your favorite artists while working, or if that makes it hard to focus, pump yourself up before you get started and then take breaks to reward yourself with some tunes to maintain a positive mood!

Finding that Final Fit

Hopefully, by now, you’ve soul searched, looked within more than ever before, got a hold on what you value, and had a lovely journey of growth and reflection. Great job! So, here you are, needing to select the school that is the best fit for you. This is going to be your home away from home for the next several years, so it’s important to do this the right way. First, take another look at that list you have of what brings you the most joy. As you reflect on those items, cross reference them with features of the schools that accepted you. Is it nature that really gets you excited? Maybe you realize that school in the middle of the city, while awesome for plenty of people, just isn’t for you. Through this process, did you realize that you actually love research? Check which of your schools let students complete research as early as their freshman year (hint: some don’t). Do you treasure your family more than anything? Then, even though that school across the country may have some really cool opportunities, if it means you don’t get to see your family as often as you’d like, maybe all the opportunities in the world will never bring you as much joy as your loved ones do. Does one school offer a club you’re interested in, but is also double the price? Which is more important to you? Can you save the money and just start that club yourself at the more affordable option? The possibilities are endless; you just need to find the place that matches up with what you value and brings you the most joy!

These ideas aren’t exhaustive, of course, but they are excellent starting points for inspiration. In the end, you’re the one who will make your own journey rewarding. The road to college can feel riddled with stress, pressure, and anxiety, but there are ways to try to minimize these and increase joy and fun.

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