It's December. All remnants of turkey and stuffing have been expunged from the fridge. The days are getting shorter and temperatures are dipping lower. Wal-Mart is drenched in red, white and pine needle green. Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" is being piped endlessly through every department store PA system on this side of the Rio Grande. But those familiar Christmas jingles mean something different to me this year. Instead of being a jolly reminder of holiday cheer, they're more like the shrill, incessant beep of a relentless alarm clock, signifying that application deadlines are almost here.
As these deadlines approach and fly by, I have come to the somewhat odd realization that I should have spent less time researching colleges and more time researching applying to college. This seems counterintuitive – applying is easy, right? You would think it's just a matter of putting everything you know about yourself on a form and pressing “send”. What I've learned working on essays and getting recommendations together, however, is that there is a vast wealth of resources and information available online on how to do your best on your application, and I know a lot less than I thought I did.
Take FastWeb for example. The "Resources" section is loaded with advice and information on recommendations, interviews, and working with your guidance counselor. The Princeton Review has tons of advice on choosing the right college, planning your senior year, and writing a good essay. The College Board has information aplenty on a range of topics, and specialty blogs like Admit Spit or Getting In have lots of helpful and interesting information that will be sure to make you feel better about applying.
Information can never be a bad thing in this wild experience. Seek it! If you're not a senior, do whatever you can to learn how to write the best possible admissions essay or the best process for getting letters of recommendation. If you're a senior, there's still time to do research. Resist the urge to assume that you'll know what to do and have it all under control. Anything you learn now will help you in the next few weeks.
In these last few weeks and days before deadline time, my strategy is to find peace by learning as much as I can about putting together a successful application and to "know thy enemy" to avoid last-minute surprises.