By Mari, IvyWise Premier College Admissions Counselor
Who says preparing to apply to college can’t be enjoyable? Of course, college prep still involves working hard, earning the best grades possible, and achieving your target scores on standardized tests, but there’s a lot you can control about the process that can — and should — be fun.
As a college admissions counselor, I’ve had students tell me that the process of applying to college helped them get to know themselves, and that they found the experience ultimately very enriching. Why? Because when it comes down to it, preparing for college is all about you. What are your interests? Your goals? What do you want to achieve? What makes you happy? What fosters a craving for knowledge? College prep isn’t just studying, testing, and writing applications. It’s a journey of self-discovery that starts early, and can carry you through a myriad of different social and learning experiences in high school.
Preparing for college can be fun! Here’s why:
You Get to Do the Things You Love
The best thing about preparing for college is that, if you’re going to do it right, you’re required to pursue the things that most interest you. I can feel your skepticism as you ask, “What if I’m interested in playing video games?” Yes, you can pursue this leisure activity too, but you need to dive in and go beyond just playing if you want to make an impression on admissions committees. Part of preparing for college is following YOUR interests as far as time and resources allow.
Become an expert on the history of video games from a technological, artistic, and/or social perspective. Do a summer program on game design and creation and use it to jump-start your fascination with programming. Learn about how game technology can be used for educational purposes; try your hand at building such a game and then share it with others. Write a gaming blog, providing reviews, and posting articles, like an analysis of the pros and cons of gaming in American culture.
While some of these suggestions might sound like work to you, I promise that by deepening your understanding of the social implications and technological foundations of your pastime, your experience with gaming will be enriched and your connections with people both inside and outside of the gaming world will expand, putting into motion the fun/satisfaction feedback loop. And, you can do all of this while assuring your parents that you’re preparing for college!
You Make New Friends Along the Way
By putting your energy into activities that you genuinely enjoy, you set yourself up for many benefits. One of these is belonging to a community, a group of people who come together to pursue a shared interest.
I remember working with a very high achieving young woman who was a member of far too many clubs. She really struggled to let any of them go because she genuinely enjoyed the camaraderie and friendship she had in the company of the other members. Being involved in a club can make your high school experience more fun, and the accomplishments, and failures, of the group can be sources of tremendous bonding with your peers as you problem-solve together.
This kind of community building will ensure lots of good times, buoy you in times of stress and uncertainty, and will help you more confidently face new social situations — like when you go away to college.
You Get to Begin Imagining Your College Experience
Researching colleges can be a lot of fun. Early in your high school career is too soon to narrow down your college list, but it’s a great time to leisurely get acquainted with a bunch of schools that you might be interested in later.
If you’re traveling for a long vacation, or even a short getaway, take a side trip to a nearby college. Take a campus tour to learn about the college’s best stories, myths, and traditions, from an enthusiastic and friendly current student. Walk around the Student Center and have lunch in a popular dining hall, pretending to be an undergrad.
If you aren’t able to visit colleges in person, there’s a lot you can learn from online research. Virtual tours are great for getting a feel for what the school looks like and learning about some of the school’s main strengths and values. Many college admissions offices support student bloggers, who provide very personal reflections on their experiences at the college. One of the most important aspects of residential college life is what happens outside of the classroom, and student blogs provide an inside look at the whole student experience.
Another way to get excited about a particular college is to read up on its various academic offerings, clicking through departmental websites to explore faculty research areas, from the cutting edge to the arcane. You can begin imaging yourself at this institution, taking classes, working with professors, joining clubs, participating in traditions, and making lifelong friends. Next time your parents tell you to stop surfing the web, you can impress them by explaining that you’re doing important college research!
This Process is About YOU!
When junior year comes to a close and writing essays and filling out application questions start to loom on the horizon, consider that there’s something kind of awesome about the fact that a bunch of college admissions officers out there across the country (or world) are curious about YOU.
You get to spend the next few months focusing on yourself. It really is all about you, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it. People out there actually want to know what makes you tick, what your favorite book is, what activities you do, what you want to be when you grow up, and more. They want to know about the things in your life that make you unlike anyone else. So, enjoy this moment in the spotlight and take the time to reflect upon yourself and see this opportunity for the gift that it is.
In the end, there’s a lot of fun to be had when preparing for college. If you embrace the opportunities for joy and fulfillment that can be found throughout this process, the college admissions journey will be much less stressful and you are more likely to find yourself at a school that feels right to you in the end.
At IvyWise we work with students and their families to alleviate the stress commonly associated with the college admissions process, and help students really discover who they are and what their goals – both for college and after – are. We strive to make a daunting process enjoyable and personally rewarding. For more information on how we work with students throughout the college prep and application process, contact us today!
To learn more about Mari, click here to read her bio and watch her video below!