By Emma Weber

As a first semester senior, it would be naive to think that I have it all figured out and that I have an exact formula for success in the college process. I do not at all, but here is what I have learned over the past few months. 

  • No matter how hard you try, you are not going to be able to satisfy every person in your life with the schools that you are applying to and the path you ultimately end up taking. Make sure that out of the few people you are able to please, you include yourself on that short list. At the end of the day, you are going to be the one who has to survive and thrive at whatever school you go to, not some random third cousin who you see once a year. The excitement of pleasing someone lasts for about 45 seconds… college lasts for four years. Be as selfish as your situation allows and make a decision that makes the most sense for you and will challenge and fulfill you as a student and person. 
  • In this process there will be days when you feel so overwhelmed, discouraged, and even doubtful in your own abilities and worth as a person, trust me. Those days will become a lot more frequent as you near intimidating deadlines such as the infamous November 1st due date. Make sure that you prepare yourself and set yourself up in a way that doesn’t leave the bulk of your essays and application questions for the last few months. Just remember that on top of the final months of “application season,” you will also have to keep up with the rigor of an HB education, so keep that in mind as you set up a hard copy of a timeline/schedule.  Although I am encouraging you to get your applications done early, I for one did not follow this key rule, and I ended up finishing everything, but seriously, don’t be like me…. please.
  • Make sure you do your research…and actually do your research. At the beginning of the year, I was very set on a specific school and program for no real substantial reason at all other than the fact that it just “felt good.” My parents and the rest of the people in my life did not see that as a sufficient enough reason to go to a school and encouraged me to research further. Initially, them telling me to go to information sessions, reach out to reps, and other things annoyed me…it felt like a slap in the face to this intuitive feeling that I had. In reality, I am so grateful that I was encouraged to do more research because by doing so, I realized that I absolutely hated that school and that it would not be a good fit for me. Thankfully, because of in-depth research, I was able to figure that out before turning in a sickeningly high deposit, rather than months or years later. 
  • Compared to the rest of this article, this is the most concrete tip I will give: reach out to your college reps! I was so intimidated and scared by the thought of emailing someone who could literally determine my future. I feared that grammatical mistakes or poorly written emails would be the difference between an acceptance letter or a rejection, but honestly, not reaching out to the rep will probably hurt you more than a misplaced comma. If you are notoriously bad with grammar and spelling, or you just want another pair of eyes (which I recommend) run your emails by your college counselor, Mr. Parsons, or your english teacher. 
  • I think this piece of information applies to all aspects of life and seems like it should go without saying, but it is important enough for me to type in this article: do not, under any circumstances, compare yourself to other people. As a sophomore in writing community, I remember hearing Mr. Parsons say “Comparison is the thief of joy”…….. I added the ellipsis so that you had time to process such a powerful and transformative quote. It really is true though, and so so very true in the college process. You have worked so insanely hard these past few years, and it would be such a shame to diminish all of your accomplishments and wins by comparing yourself to a classmate, who in reality, you don’t really fully know. I wish I had given myself the gift of not comparing myself to other people, it would have saved me a lot of tears and sleepless nights. As best as you can, try not to do yourself the disservice of punitively comparing random statistics and test scores. You are so much more than someone else’s test score, and you also have a much different situation and life than any given person in your grade.  
  • In order to have the most successful process possible, you need to know when to stop. When I say this, I mean that you need to do yourself the favor of taking a step back and catching a breath when the countless hours of writing and the thought of going to college gets too overwhelming. When you do take these moments for yourself, make them meaningful. Go outside and read a book, watch a comfort show, listen to music that relaxes your mind, or honestly anything that doesn’t add to the stress and leaves you feeling refreshed. You will not be able to do your most brilliant work when the stress feels so paralyzing. 
  • Ask for help. We are so lucky to go to a school where the people who care about us seem to be infinite. You have the college counselors, you have Ms. Biggar, you have your mentor, you have your deans, and you also have an entire grade of people who are going through a pretty similar process to you. I wish I had sought out more support throughout this process because what was I going to lose by admitting that I needed a little help? Absolutely nothing. You only lose something when you don’t reach out for help, and although I know it is so intimidating to admit that you feel stressed and confused, you will feel relieved. Asking for help is a very courageous thing. You literally can even reach out to me if you feel too scared to find the help from other places. Your feelings are beyond valid. 
  • This is probably the most important part, so if you don’t read any other bullet point, read this one: show genuine gratitude for the people who have helped you to get to this point. Our success at HB and in life doesn’t solely belong to us. Our success is a culmination of years of amazing teachers who have spent hours after class to make sure that we understand the material, supportive friends who are always willing to offer a word of encouragement, or during pre-pandemic life, a reassuring hug, and of course, the adults who have helped us to get to HB and become the people that we are. Thank your mom, your dad, your grandma, your grandpa, your aunt or uncle, really anyone who has helped shape the amazing person that you are today. Even if you think your support system knows how grateful you are for them, I have realized that a simple “thank you” goes a long way.

P.S. please just do your common app essay either in the Spring of junior year of the summer going into senior year. That is the one self-imposed deadline that I made sure to meet, and I was so grateful to my past self for having done that.