As a senior who successfully survived the college application process and has already committed to college, I know a thing or two about taking this giant leap. The institution you currently attend may help you, yet also stunt you.
During your junior year, you will meet with your college academic counselor (CAC), who will hand you a packet full of potential colleges that provide the major you want to study. They only know this because of the student college application plan and the student autobiography you provide. I cannot stress this enough: you need to take these seriously. Your college counselors don’t know you, so whatever you put on these papers is what they go off of. Now, this giant pack of colleges is your holy grail. It sorts these colleges by size, selectiveness, location, and everything else you could think of. After this document, you’re on your own.
Now, like a large portion of IMSA students, I’d like to pursue a career in medicine. Although exciting, that also means my chances of getting into the best colleges for medicine were slim. However, my past college counselor asked me about my other interests and majors that I would consider because, honestly, I would not have had a chance as a pre-med major. There are scores of other interested pre-meds at IMSA, most of whom dedicate themselves to having phenomenal grades and internships. And, while there’s nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t stand out.
My CAC looked through my extracurriculars and projects I’ve worked on and found careers and majors that weren’t copied and pasted from my peers. From a two-paragraph blip, my CAC was able to give a list of colleges made just for me and my new major. And now, I will be attending an amazing college with a fantastic curriculum designed to fit me as a person and my future career in the medical field. I owe 100% of this to my CAC junior year. Your CACs know what they are doing to find programs, scholarships, and potential majors that work for you, so take advantage of this.
The application process is stressful. Teachers don’t lighten up on coursework, some apps have nine supplementals, and everything is due on one date. However, our CACs take such a load off of us by sending in our transcripts and all the obnoxious paperwork. Take a second to appreciate how much work that is. Two hundred students apply to roughly seven schools each (some more). That’s 1,400 transcripts, all being sent within the span of 3 months. Give them a round of applause.
Now, as much praise as I love to give the CACs and this institution in general, not everything is perfect. However, the things I want to critique aren’t in the hands of the school. They’re actually in yours. There is such a hostile atmosphere that surrounds the college conversation here. Whether it was people asking me why I would ever switch from a pre-med track to philosophy because it wasn’t “stable enough” or others not caring what college you got into because they “didn’t know the name of it,” aggressiveness and presumption ruled in my peers’ behavior. Just because you aren’t going to an Ivy League school doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard and that you shouldn’t be proud of where you are going. In all honesty, it doesn’t matter where you go as long as you’re happy and continue to work hard to achieve great things. But, no matter how many times I say it, or your CAC does, there will still be this assumed superiority among those heading off to Ivies next fall. So, I preach to the juniors and sophomores: Please try to disassemble this belief. College and the application season are supposed to be fun and momentous. Don’t let stupid opinions or stereotypes ruin that for you. And, if you’ve gotten into any college and no one has told you already: I am proud of you.