AdmissionsMom’s Four Golden Rules of College Admissions — Plus a Bonus!
Full Disclosure. This is how I’d planned to start this post:
May the Fourth be with you today & every day! To celebrate StarWarsDay, I’m sharing my FOUR most important rules for college admissions.
But this is what happened: May 4th came and went because I decided to celebrate with friends :) so I didn’t have time to post and then AP Test Questions started piling up, so I wanted to pivot and make a post about that. But I still had all these beautiful ideas … OK. Fine. I think they are beautiful ideas… So, annnnywaayy (how do you even spell that???), instead of celebrating StarWars Day, let’s celebrate Mother’s Day instead, shall we?
Happy Mothers Day to those who celebrate and big hugs to all of you for whom today is complicated!
The Four Golden Rules of College Admissions
While these mantras are the golden rules of College Admissions, I want you to try to hold them in your pockets and allow them to be lessons in life, too. If you follow these and allow them to kind of become your mantra, then you’ll be golden (did I just say golden again?) when it comes to your admissions experience. Well, you know … not golden because that would be impossible — I’m no King Midas, but you’ll be ready to ride the waves of your admissions journey, no matter what it brings you.
OK. I have to tell you that in my original post I had really cute little emojis in my subtitles, but I didn’t want y’all telling me it was cringe so I took them off…
Asking questions is an essential part of college admissions. From the very beginning, it’s essential that you start by asking yourself lots of questions about what you want in a college as you prepare your list like, Where do I want to be? What do I want the vibe to be like? What do I want to do on a Saturday night? How far away from home? What about the weather?
Then you move forward to asking yourself lots of questions about who you are and what’s important to you as you think about what you want to share in your essays. What do you believe? What do you value? What’s important to you? What can you share that will help you build a connection with your reader?
Next, you have to ask your parents or guardians questions about finances. Sit down with them and have a frank discussion. While you’re at it, ask them what they know about college admissions and what they’re thinking for you. Also, remind them that it’s important for them to learn and ask questions too (but not to ask you too many questions because that can get overwhelming!)
Throughout, whenever you feel overwhelmed, you need to ask for help. Reach out to friends, teachers, family, counselors, and even here on A2C! This shit can get tiring and exhausting and disappointing and crazy and nerve-wracking. When your stress meter is leaning too far to the right, be sure to ask for help!
And, don’t forget to ask about the process — there are lots and lots — and lots — of details you need to learn about, and while Google should certainly be your friend, I also recommend that you ask admissions offices, admissions counselors, and your school counselor. There’s so much to learn and know about college admissions (and life), so don’t assume you know everything. My mom used to always tell me the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask. My mom’s not Chinese, but I feel like she would’ve totally vibed with the Chinese Proverb, “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.” Actually, I don’t think you’re a fool for even five minutes, but it might feel that way sometimes. To me, the MOST IMPORTANT thing to know about college admissions is that it’s ALWAYS ok to ask. So, don’t hesitate when you have questions. Just jump in and ask!
KNOW THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST
I wish I had a magic wand to make your admission happen, I really do, but it’s just not that simple. Especially for the most rejective colleges, there is no magical way to guarantee admission (except for maybe your parents’ extravagant donation but that’s a different post…). You can’t do certain ECs (no, not even a “passion project” or NPO or curing cancer) and guarantee admission — or get a certain GPA or a test score or even write a killer essay. And even if you have a gargantuan GPA, super shiny test scores, bombass essays and all the amazing passion projects and cancer cures, your odds of being accepted to a highly rejective college remain… low — like really low. You see, no one thing is going to make your application be the one that has that magic wand wave over it and make it work. As a UChicago Admissions Counselor once said at an info session I attended, “Just when you think you’ve figured out what we want, we change our mind.” The hard truth is that your app has to unequivocally, authentically reflect you and who you are and what you care about. You — you’re the magic fairy dust… Hmmm, so I guess there’s fairy dust after all, you say…
Even if you think you’ve got this admissions gig in the bag, hold on there, cowboy. I’ve seen tons of kids (and their parents) think they know exactly what’s going on only to come back and be totally bamboozled in the Spring. It’s not pretty. Have an open mind and be ready to learn. Be curious. AND be open-minded about your college list most of all. Please, please, please have a well-rounded list with some true-blue SureFire, Sure Bet Schools (more on that in posts to come). And remember that sometimes the best financial situation for your family comes from merit aid, not necessarily need-based. So be sure to open your mind to the many amazing colleges that are eager to offer you merit scholarships! There are literally hundreds of incredible colleges in the US alone — and they are looking for strong students like you!
Keep an open mind as you hear advice about admissions. You’re gonna have it coming and going from all sorts of corners and angles. Listen. Learn. Those of us who write and think about — and spend a certain amount of time obsessing about college admissions — all have different philosophies and that’s cool, so be sure to be open to ideas that might be different from what you’ve heard before. Sift through all that info out there and find what works best just for you.
And keep an open mind about your expectations for yourself. My mom, in her wisdom, always told me “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I’m pretty sure Voltaire said that or something like it first, but I still attribute it to my mom. That means I want you to be open-minded about what you expect from yourself as you go through this journey. No one is expecting perfection from you — and like I’ve already said, even if you could manage perfection, it doesn’t necessarily lead to where you think you want to be anyway.
It is May the Fourth, so I had to include space! Mother’s Day is the perfect day to think about holding space in your heart and mind. I want you to be ready for all the things you need to be able to handle as you go through the stresses of the Wild Wild West of college admissions — and you need some space to be able to do that. It’s not easy. Allow yourself to hold space inside for the discomforts as you become comfortable with the uncertainty of this admissions experience. Hold space for your thoughts. Hold space for your worries. Hold space for your excitement. Just allow it to all be within you. If you squash it down or numb it goes deep inside and makes a messy swamp that you do not want to deal with.
Hold space for others who might also be feeling a little stressed out around you for whatever their reasons are — college admissions, financial worries, food or housing insecurity, physical or mental health issues, grief, family problems. You know. You’re the most aware generation we’ve had and you know the litany of problems affecting those around you.
Allow yourself to not only be a questioner, but a listener as you listen to your own gut, your own heart, and your own intellect, but also bring space inside yourself to listen to others. Connect with teachers, friends, family, and community, and hold space in your life for them. The last piece of wisdom from my amazing mom I’ll share with you here: “When you can’t figure out what to do for yourself, do something for someone else.” Whenever I would go to my mom complaining about something or worried about something, she’d always say those words to me. That doesn’t mean to ignore your own feelings — because that’s the last thing I want you to do. In fact, I really want you to hold space for them (it’s one of these golden rules!), but when you’re so freaked out or worried or stressed, it can help to think about where you can put that energy and how you can use it to help others.
So, as I was thinking about this post, I just couldn’t get over the idea that I really wanted to add a fifth rule, and since I’m not stuck only having four golden rules since I missed May the Fourth, I’m gonna just go for it. So, here’s your BONUS FIFTH GOLDEN RULE!
FIND YOUR BALANCE
I do a lot of yoga, and one of the parts that I find the most difficult, but that I also enjoy the most are the balance poses. They seem so simple — just shift your weight to one leg and pick up the other and do something with it. My teachers always say to embrace the wobbles. The same thing goes for college admissions. Acknowledge when you need to adjust whatever it is you’re doing — if you’re balancing a full course load with lots of ECs or family responsibilities or a job (or all the above), you’re gonna need to acknowledge those wobbles and times when you need to start over and readjust. Does that mean you’re doing it wrong? Absolutely not. It means you’re trying and you have an awareness of yourself and what your emotional, mental, and physical health need.
Happy Mother’s Day
So, happy mother’s day to all the moms out there reading this — and to all of you who have moms or mom-figures in your lives, go give them a hug today. And for those of you who are feeling a little bit of a hole in your heart today, I’m here for you. My mom died 6 years ago and I still miss her every single day, but the little bruise of missing her is definitely a little more sensitive today. If you’d like to learn more about my mom and how she was my inspiration to begin my journey as AdmissionsMom, here’s a link to my post I wrote in tribute to her on her birthday.
AdmissionsMom’s Four Golden Rules of Admissions
- Ask Questions
- Know There Is No Magic Fairy Dust
- Be Open-Minded
- Hold Space
- Bonus! Find your Balance