CollegeApp Chick

A college student and self proclaimed college app junkie. Determined to give the best advice, relevant news, and simple

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The school year is starting up again… and that can only mean one thing. Commitments are coming!

One of the simplest steps you can take is to make a schedule. Seriously, if you put in the work to keep things on track life becomes  a lot easier.

It’s not just writing down assignments. It’s writing down *everything*

I personally like putting things in my phone/tablet calendar. Everything from “Health Psych Midterm” to “Formal is this weekend” to “Schedule flights for thanksgiving” has a nifty little reminder that I always have in my bag.

So, as a student, what are some things you can put in your schedule to make your life easier?

1. Put in reminders two weeks before college deadlines
Do this for every individual college. Do it before early action and regular decision deadlines. Two weeks is enough time to write an effective supplement or alert a teacher that you need a rec (though you should be talking to them way in advance).

2. Put in reminders for test dates and sign up deadlines
Go on the SAT/ACT website now and check when the 2014/2015 test dates are scheduled. Put in both the actual test date, and the last day to sign up for those tests. Now even if you’re not planning *right now* to take a March test it doesn’t hurt to have the reminder in your calendar. Maybe you thought you’d be done in February, or you thought you’d have a conflict on that weekend that got cancelled. Having the reminders, even if you’re not a junior, might just save your butt when it comes to schedule a big event. You might be the one who checks your calendar and goes: “Oh we can’t do a fundraiser on the March SAT, the Juniors won’t come.” Do it, it helps a ton.

3. Put in reminders of things you really want to do

My best friend and I decided months ago that we want to go see a comedian in DC in September. I put the date in my calendar so I wouldn’t schedule anything for that weekend, and I also put a reminder in my calendar to actually buy the tickets when they went on sale. Useful, because they sold out shortly after we got our seats. Do this for movie premieres (most of the Marvel dates are in my phone because I try to go visit my best friend at another school to see them with her), or any special events locally that you won’t want to be busy on.

A schedule shouldn’t only be for work. If you make it as detailed as possible, it will make your life run smoothly.

The first day of school is a weird one.

It’s exciting. You’re going to get to find out who is in your classes, and see what your teachers are like. You get a taste for the next academic year. And that’s great.

But it also can set the tone for the new year. So make sure you’re getting off on the right foot.

Here’s a few steps to take

 Answer Questions

Why: You want your teachers to know your name, and you want to be among the first names that they learn. They’ll think of you first, and they’ll view you more favorably. How do you make sure your name is cemented? You draw positive attention. How do you do this? Answer questions. Even silly “What did you do this summer” or “Why are you taking this class” questions. Answer questions, be respectful, smile. It makes a huge difference.

Why: Knowing what’s coming next will always help keep your life on track. If you get test dates, big assignments, or anything pre-scheduled write them down on your calendar or planner that day. If you get the book list for the semester don’t just buy the first one, order them all in advance. Seriously, write out dates as you get them. It will help your time management insanely to know that your hell week is October 8th.

Be Friendly

Why: At some point you’re going to have a dreaded group project so you’ll want to know someone in all of your classes who you can rely on. If you only kind of know one person, sit next to them and chat. It’s rough, and a little scary, but it makes a huge difference. If it’s at a club or at lunch it never hurts to be nice to underclassmen. Most of my friends in high school were the year above me or below me, simply made by being friendly to the people I met through clubs. Give people a place to belong.

In the constant barrage of things you’re told are, “Good for college applications” few are actually universally true.

One that applies to everyone is leadership.

Colleges are looking for people to make their campus a better place, and people who they will be able to put their stamp on once they graduate. So one way to look for these types of people? See if they’re already doing that in high school.

You need to seek out leadership. You need to actively be involved with things. They don’t necessarily need to be clubs or teams (though obviously those are great). It can be in your religious community, with a public service project, or really anything. Be a leader. Take charge.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be a formal “president/VP/treasurer” position either. But show that you organized an event, or spearheaded a fundraising campaign, or did PR for a community function. Show that you’re someone who adds to what you do.

How do colleges become awesome hubs of active and involved people? They look for active and involved people. So be one.

I moved in a little less than a week ago into my first “big kid” apartment.  I’ve been spending a week putting the finishing touches on and getting ready for my senior year.

Something you guys might not know is that I’m living with my freshman roommate for the third time.

Some people are shocked when they hear this. We’re still best friends, and I lived in my sorority house last year so we didn’t live together, but we knew that living together senior year was our end-game. We’re insanely good roommates. And part of it is that we’re well suited to each other, but the other, bigger part is that we’re both easy to live with. We have good roommate-ing down to a science.

Here’s the top three things that will make you a good roommate

1. No Passive Aggression,
The number one thing to ensure roommate success is use your words.
If something is enough of an issue to raise it with your roommate, just speak up. Leaving a note or hinting at what is wrong will never get the problem solved. Put on your big kid pants and tell them what you need. Most of the time it didn’t even occur to your roommate that the britta needed to be refilled or that you’re running out of toilet paper.
On the other end of this is that if your roommate makes a reasonable request of you, listen! Cleaning a bathroom takes maybe ten minutes, if it’s your turn, it’s your turn.

2. Lay Down The Rules, Reasonably

Being considerate is one of the simplest things you can do, and it goes a long way. If there is something you need to be a rule in your room, tell your roommate up front about it. Start off with the habits that you expect to live with. If you need complete darkness to sleep, request that your roommate get a lamp for late night studying. But also, consider their point of view. I sleep with a sleep-mask because I’m super light sensitive. I can’t expect my roommate to not study in our room, so I compromise. If you need it cold, and your roommate likes it warm, compromise. Maybe keep it warm during the day, but make it cold for sleeping (because it’s a lot easier to get warm under a pile of blankets). If you need to sexile your roommate, give them advanced warning (even if it’s only an hour) and offer to pay for a midnight snack for them. Establish protocols. Who cleans, when? Who pays for room supplies?
Having rules, even if they seem silly, is a good way to establish a routine.

3. Have Separate Lives

This, honestly, is how to make a roommate relationship last. You absolutely 100% can be best friends with your roommate. However, you need to have separate lives and separate friends. There can obviously be overlap, but seriously, make sure you have time apart. Even the best of friends can get on each other’s nerves if they spend every single moment together. So join a few different things, have a group of friends who your roommate doesn’t really know all that well. Roommates doesn’t mean twins.

Once upon a time…

Okay maybe not that type of story. When you’re writing essays and supplements one of the main principles is “Show, don’t tell.”
You have to support what you’re saying with examples. Instead of telling them something about yourself, tell them a story.

But just like every good story story there’s more than the narrative. You need to have a point.

The story you’re telling isn’t just about the story. You’re not just telling a story about how you made friends with a woman on an airplane when you were being medically sent home from a service trip.  It’s about what that story says about you. You’re telling them how you’re friendly, curious, and want to know all about everyone around you.

Think carefully about what’s “between the lines” and what the story says about you. There lies the magic.

There are little mistakes everywhere. They happen. They’re a part of life. They usually go unnoticed. If you created them, you’ll think them a feature rather than a flaw.

When it comes to your essays though, you should try to avoid those little mistakes as best as you can.

You can write and edit until you’re sure everything is 100% perfect but there’s an extra step that should not go overlooked.

Get a fresh set of eyes on your essay. And your resume. And your supplements. Someone who hasn’t ever seen it before.

If you have someone who has edited every draft for you they’re not going to catch a tiny mistake. But if you get someone new to look at it they’ll read it more carefully, and they’ll look at the language more critically.

So get a clean set of eyes on everything before it’s set out.

This is one of the hardest things to write, because every applicant will literally be writing the same thing. So here’s how to get a good, genuine essay.

1. Tour and/or research the crap out of the school. Write down everything you’re interested in, and make sure you’re specific. It might be one weird little tradition, or one research lab, or just how they describe the freshman experience. Keep notes. Conventional advice is to look at the course catalog and say what classes you want to take with which professors, but honestly you can put a more personal touch on it. You’ll be great in class, but they’re looking for people who will add to the community.

2. Narrow down to 2-3 things about the school you’re passionate about, the real solid things you want to do when you go there. Write out why you want to go there, and what that activity says about you as a person. So, for example, if the school is big on community service, find a specific project and say why it’s important to you/amazing that the school has it.

3. Look at advertisements for the school and see what words they use to describe themselves. Keep these words in mind as you’re writing.

These essays are tricky in their simplicity. But if you’re specific to why you want to go to the school, rather than why the school is great, you’ll come off with a personal, interesting essay.

I know everyone says college is a fresh start. And it is, why do you think one of my highest priorities for choosing a school was a low population from my high school?

But to be honest, you are who you are. You’re not going to change fundamental things about yourself just by being in a new location. And that’s okay. And that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave your comfort zone. You should absolutely challenge yourself to leave your comfort zone, that’s how growth happens.

So, let’s say you’re introverted and you don’t like parties and you prefer to spend a lot of time alone.
That’s fine.
But maybe challenge yourself to go out a little more. Even if it’s once a weekend, do something social. Go to a party, even if you’re really just tagging along with your freshman hallmates. You’ll meet people, and you might find new things on your campus you didn’t know about before.

There isn’t “cool” and “uncool” in college. There are, however, people who are comfortable with who they are and those who are trying too hard to be something “else.”

So be comfortable in who you are, know yourself, but also challenge yourself to grow.

Some things to get out of the way before school starts.

Independence is awesome. It truly is.

Being on your own in college is great, but it’s also challenging and overwhelming.

When it comes to class a lot more responsibility is in your lap. It’s not quite what your high school teachers tell you will happen (for example: I’ve never had a big assignment that was only listed on the syllabus, never mentioned in class), but you do have to take matters into your own hands. Review sheets are uncommon, instead of formal review sessions or extra help you’ll have to make an appointment for office hours. You’ll make study groups for tests and you’ll have to self-teach a lot more material.

Your writing won’t be up to par at first, but that’s okay. Go to the writing center, talk to your TAs, ask your older friends for guidance. You’ll get there. Academic writing is learned through trial by fire, so do it until you do it right.

There’s also a few things to know about professors.
Professors are a lot less forgiving in college. Their grade policy is their grade policy, and that’s generally it. If the syllabus says an 89.9 is a B+ than no amount of arguing will convince them to make it an A-. Extensions are hard to come by, and extra credit is rare.

However, they’ll also take extenuating circumstances into consideration if you explain. And if something is wrong, it’s always best to explain. They’re people, they have lives, and they’ll understand.

I had a class that had a strict “one absence only” attendance policy, but due to a death in the family I had to take two. My professor understood and let me write a 1000 word essay to make up the difference.

I once emailed a professor I know really well to tell her I wasn’t coming into class because I was too sick and she literally emailed me back, "Jillian if you’re skipping class you must be on deaths door. Do you need me to send your lab partners to you with some soup?"
I had this professor freshman year, and she knew that I routinely drag myself to class sick. So taking responsibility for my health over class was something she was actually proud of me for.

The thing about college is that you need to take matters into your own hands, and you need to take responsibility for your grades. But you also need to prioritize what’s more important than class.