A Student’s Guide to the College Application Process

April 18, 2016

Getting into college is no easy task. It doesn’t matter where you’re applying, what your grades are, or what you’re looking to study, it’s one of the harder accomplishments to take on. But every year, students get into schools and set off on a four-year adventure that eventually starts their adult lives. Bryce Crawford is no different. This senior, who is headed off to Yale in the fall, spent endless hours crafting applications to a number of different schools. He wrote an open letter to the juniors about to take on the task of applying to college, and here’s what he wrote:

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“Dear Juniors,

Every year students enduring the front half of their senior year of high school experience dread as they enter the infamous college admissions process. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to spending hundreds of dollars on applications, writing tens of thousands of words aobut myself, and laboring for dozens of hours to make it all happen.

When entering the process it’s not entirely uncommon for students to question their own worth - Have I worked hard enough to get into the school of my dreams? Am I smart enough? Am I good enough? What if every school rejects me? What do my parents and peers expect from me? These questions and more plague the minds of stressed-out, self-conscious, and under-rested teenagers.

I applied to 9 schools - I was accepted to 4, waitlisted at 3, and rejected from 2. I wrote a little over 20,000 words in admissions essay, and spent quite a bit of my free-time during the second quarter of my senior year getting it all done. I was a good student, but I wasn’t a perfect student by any means. My transcript consisted mostly of As with a few Bs here and there, I was ranked 58 of 739 in my class on my six semester rank, and I wasn’t heavily involved in any sports or other strictly athletic activities.

I was hesitant to apply to Yale because I never thought I would get accepted. I wasn’t ranked as one of the top 10 kids in my class and my SAT score was 100 points below their 50th percentile, so it seemed like I would be throwing $100 down the drain all for a rejection. After learning Yale was a Common App school and hosted ROTC I felt a little better about applying simply because I wouldn’t have to start the application from scratch and if I received an ROTC scholarship I could transfer it to Yale.

I treated the Yale application no different than I treated any of my other applications. I’m not extremely analytic when it comes to my writing so I just wrote about what came to my mind first. I didn’t look up any fancy vocabulary words to throw in my essays and I didn’t count the number of simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences to make sure they were evenly distributed. I just wrote - the same way I’m writing to you now. When asked what inspires me I was honest: I talked about superheroes. When I mentioned my goals for society I talked about the impact watching “Bill Nye the Science Guy” had on me as a kid. Nothing was forced and nothing was unnecessary.

Imagine my surprise when I was accepted to Yale! I couldn’t believe it. I’m extremely excited to be starting college at Yale this fall on an ROTC scholarship. If I had to give advice to the people who are entering the college admissions process, I’d say just be yourself and be honest. It’s unhealthy to research the average psychological profile of an admissions officer in hopes of engineering an essay that has a high likelihood of resonating with them. I’m willing to bet that the applications that are genuine and truthful are much more refreshing for the people that read them than applications that are too extravagant or planned-out. Put effort into writing your essays, but realize that you don’t need to write about the time you rescued a family from a burning building in order to make an effective essay. Instead, try taking the admissions officers on a journey showing dat-to-day life through your eyes. All you need to write about is the truth.

If my experience has taught me anything it’s that there is a light at the end of the dark scary tunnel that is college admissions. I don’t want to leave you with the misconception that the light represents admission to an Ivy League school - because it doesn’t. The light represents your bright future. If you’re planning to attend college then you will become part of an elite group throughout history that has had the privilege of higher education, and you likely live in one of the most well-developed countries in the world. Rest assured that you can and will be accepted to a college, and that in a matter of months this whole process will be over.

There is a decision waiting for you at the end of that tunnel, but that decision is your own. You get to choose what you make of your education wherever you end up attending. I have friends attending all sorts of schools ranging from community college to UT Austin, Texas A&M, Trinity University, St. Mary’s University, and many more. They didn’t find peace necessarily because they went to one college and not the other, they found peace because after months of biting their nails waiting for an answer they finally found finality in the decision. The answer they found should serve as a beacon of hope that the next amazing parts of their life are going to happen. Don’t stress yourself out about getting into this or that college, instead try to remain excited by the idea that you don’t know what college you’ll be attending. Every rejection you get just nudges you towards your mysterious future university, a university where you might discover a new passion or meet the future mother/father of your children. Your life is like a book being read to you, so embrace the foreshadowing that admissions decisions provide as you brace yourself for the next chapter.”

If you’re just getting started on the application process, make sure to search our database of admitted students to find schools that fit you. See essays, stats, and advice from thousands of students at colleges across the US and see where you fit in. Talk one-on-one with a mentor to get personalized advice on your process. 

About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.

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