college admissions process

I can vividly remember sitting at my desk in the fall of my senior year of high school and being so nervous I could barely breathe. I’d been on dozens of college tours, spoken with countless students, and interviewed endlessly. But I still hadn’t found “the one.” I hadn’t experienced that “eureka” moment. You know, the one where you’re walking around a campus and just know it’s where you’re going to spend your college years. Some of my friends had described it as a sunbeam of light falling straight down onto their head while listening to angels sing and birds chirp.

But there I was, with no idea where I wanted to go, what I wanted to be, or why I should even go to college in the first place. All I really knew was that in 12 months I had no idea where I was going to be. Cue the difficult breathing (and tears).

I’m going to be honest with you. There are a lot of parts of the college admissions process that simply are NO fun. Standardized testing, anxious waiting periods, panicked thoughts of the unknown, rejection letters—the process can be downright terrifying. But, if you’re willing to look “on the bright side” or try to find the “silver lining,” there can be something to “fall in love” with in this wild process. I’m a firm believer in P.A.C.E.—the idea that a Positive Attitude Changes Everything. So from the other side of the desk, here are a few ways to reframe the way you’re thinking about college admissions so you can fall in love with the process:

  1. You’re learning a lot about yourself. Even if you don’t feel like you are, I promise you, it’s happening! Perhaps you’ve had to think long and hard about a tough, introspective essay prompt or an interviewer asked you to “describe yourself in 30 seconds.” At the very least, you’ve had to think about where you’d like to go to school, thus defining your preferred learning and social environments.
  2. You’re also getting to know your parents a little bit better. Sure, this might come from some pretty heated arguments (Who knew your mom cared so much about campus safety?!) or way too much time in the car (Why does your dad only listen to Bob Dylan?!), but you’ve built a deeper relationship with your family that will serve you in the years to come.
  3. Each potential admission will result in a slightly different version of “you.” Even if you applied to very similar schools, each campus has a slightly different flavor and will influence you in varied ways. As you’re waiting for decisions to come back, know that wherever you end up is going to shape the person you are when you walk across the graduation stage. Just imagine all the possibilities!
  4. If all else fails, you can always transfer. Honestly, your college admissions decisions aren’t the end-all-be-all of life. Plenty of successful people didn’t love-love-love their undergraduate years. And if it really doesn’t work out, you can always transfer. Sounds harsh, but it’s true.
  5. At some point, it’s out of your control: By winter, when your applications are submitted and everything is sitting in the hands of an application reader and their committee, you’ve just got to succumb to the fact that there’s nothing more you can do. If you’ve done your work (or you believe in fate), this is where you have to trust in the process. The right schools will see your fit. (But, of course, professional disclaimer: If you’re a junior, this whole process is still currently completely in your control! There’s a lot you can be doing right now to make sure you get the outcomes you want!)

Sure, the college admissions process isn’t all cool road trips, free sweatshirts, and acceptance letters. But there are a lot of reasons to see it as an adventure and enjoy the process as much as you can! I hope you can fall in love with the process.

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Written by Abigail Anderson
Abigail Anderson is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Abigail received her bachelor’s in sociology from Colby College. Prior to joining College Coach, Abigail worked as a senior admissions officer at Reed College and Emma Willard School.