Senior Year Experience Essay

It’s almost Pumpkin Spice Latte season! And UC Application Submission season… Image from Pexels

Feeling alone as you swim through the terrifying waters known as the college admission process? Have no fear! We have several seniors blogging about ups, downs, and random in-betweens of their college process for the next 12 months (from June 2015 to June 2016!). Sit back, relax, and get that “OMG I totally get you, bro” feeling. Information for how to contact a blogger will be at the bottom of his/her posts.

Okay, so basically everything I said in my last post was wrong. At the time, I was feeling pretty good. Not stressed at all. One could even say I was really excited. I thought it could only get better from where I was. Oh boy, was I wrong.

This last month has been pretty draining, to be quite honest. It all began when school started, on August 19th. Everyone I know told me that junior year was “my last hard year of high school.” That couldn’t be any further from the truth. Maybe it’s because I overloaded myself with AP classes this year (my school is kind of weird in that, unlike public school students, we can’t take most of our AP courses until our senior year, which leads to many of us getting the “junior year experience” during our senior year), or perhaps it’s just the combination of college apps stress and homework stress, but this year the workload has been just as bad or worse than it has been my entire high school career.

But on the bright side, I’m a whole lot more organized this year (which really isn’t saying much, but whatever). I actually have a planner, that I kind of use sometimes. It’s going to take some getting used to but I think by the end of my senior year I’ll have developed the organization and study skills that I’m going to need in college. Fingers crossed.

I might be getting more organized with my study skills and classes, but if there’s one thing that is not organized at all, it’s my college list. Yes, I know in my last post I gave you all the list of colleges I’m applying to. As of today, I’ve added three more schools onto that list. So now I’m almost back where I started, with seventeen schools on my list. It shouldn’t cause me too much more stress because only one of them is a Common App school (the others are UCs and CSUs, so really I just have to check off a box and I’m all set), and I wasn’t really applying to that many Common App schools anyway.

And I don’t even feel like I’m done with the college search yet. I keep researching new schools that pop up in my inbox, and becoming infatuated with them. I keep finding new minors and majors that sound so interesting to me. I guess that’s just part of being human though—the grass always seems greener on the other side. I got an email the other day from a school that I have absolutely zero interest in going to, and they said I qualified for a sort of expedited admissions process (I forget exactly what they called it, but it wasn’t early action)—at any time I wanted, I could use a special application portal, send in my scores and have an admissions decision in two weeks from now. And my first thought was “Wow, I should apply there.”

The need to relieve this college application stress is so real that I almost applied to a school that I don’t even want to go to. How desperate am I?

There are a lot of new things that I’ve been finding in colleges that I’m legitimately interested in. For example, I recently found out that at a lot of schools, my SAT II score in Italian qualifies me to minor in Italian without having to take any beginner level Italian classes. I’m definitely going to keep that in mind as I apply to schools, seeing as I planned on minoring in a foreign language anyways. But most of the things that I’ve been finding are just superficial things that most people wouldn’t even give a second thought if they weren’t interested in the school as a whole.

I’ve been working a lot on my essays recently. Since I’m done with almost everything on the Common App and UC App, except the supplements and personal statements, I’ve been able to devote most of my college admissions time to writing essays. While I’ve been sort of neglecting my supplements, my personal statements have been getting a lot better. I started with redrafting one of my UC essays. I ended up with a really nice piece that I’m very proud of, though I’m not quite sure it answers the question entirely. But luckily, I managed to keep the word count down, and now my essays only have a combined total of 1043 words. I just have to carefully cut out 43 words and I’ll be ready to do some really heavy editing.

One of the Admit/ Deny Bloggers from last year, Rainbow Yeung, called the college application process “The Art of Finding Yourself,” and I think that’s a really important mindset to have while you’re writing your essays. You have to tap into yourself and really be able to show that admissions officer who you are. Because you’re not just your SAT scores or your extra-curriculars. We’ve all experienced things that no one else has experienced. You have a unique personality that is unlike anyone else’s. But an admissions officer will never know that unless you can really tap into who you are in those essays.

It’s hard, and it’s something that I don’t think I’ve managed to do yet. Which is why my essays still need lots of editing and proofreading. But at least I’ve managed to get something down on the paper. Which is half the battle, right?

As application deadlines slowly approach (UC and CSU deadlines are November 30th!), I’m finding that I’ve come into this whole college process a little bit less organized than I had originally planned. Okay, well, a lot less organized. I thought that by now I’d know exactly what schools I was applying to and how many, but as I’m writing this very paragraph, I’m also researching two other colleges that have been on my “maybe” list for a while now. I’m okay with applying to a few more schools, but I’m pretty sure my parents won’t be when they see all those application fees on the credit card bill!

Anyway, between all of this college applications stuff and having nightmares about failing AP Physics, I’m actually doing pretty well. I’ve managed to add some pretty good safeties to my list and even though I’m pretty stressed out, I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That light is about a seven month long trek away, but it sure is bright.

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Every day I realize that I’m a senior. I know that probably sounds like a weird thing to say, but every day I have this enlightened moment where I say to myself “Whoa. This is my last year of high school. This is my last year of mandated public education.”

When I wasn’t a senior, I heard seniors talk about missing things about the place they live before they move, and this is something I’ve been consciously trying to avoid. I thought it would be easy, because the place I live is notorious for its lack of things to do. I’d bet that Murrieta is more exciting than a farming town in Nebraska, but if you only went by what you heard from the kids here, you’d think that this city is some kind of punishment. It really isn’t that easy to stop those nostalgic feelings from forming, though, even this early in the year.

Despite my attempts otherwise, I’ve started to notice things that I really like and that will be different no matter where I move. They’re usually just little things, like the Chinese restaurant with the sign out front that says “CHINESERESTAURANT” that serves amazing orange chicken. Or the fact that every morning on the way to school I see hot air balloons in the distance over the wineries. Or just the fact that I have a comfortable house to live in. When I go to college, I’m going to have to live in a dorm. I’ve stayed in the dorms of three different colleges for summer camps and programs over the years, and the thought of living in a dorm room just doesn’t appeal to me.

It’s not just material things that are becoming apparent, though. It’s people too, like my family. Obviously, I’ll never lose connection with my parents, but after next summer it’s going to be different. It’s something that I look at with a good mix of apprehension and eagerness. I’ve always been excited to live in my own place, have a job, and earn my own money. But it makes me sad to think that this is the last chance I have to spend a lot of time with my parents and family. Have I taken full advantage of the time I’ve had? Of course it’s fun to think about being independent and responsible, but it’s not fun thinking I can never go back.

And it’s the people at school. I’ve mentioned before that we have a large student body. With the understanding that by June this campus will no longer be home to me, I realize that the people I see every day I will most likely never see again. I’m not really concerned about friends — we’ll find ways to stay in touch — it’s more the people who I don’t yet know. At a school of so many, I can honestly say that I see a new face every day. It’s a little weird, and it’s a little depressing. I’ve had all this time to meet as many people as possible, and I do think I did a pretty good job of it, but there are still all these people I haven’t met. What about those people? They’ve been there, but I haven’t learned from them. I have so little time left to glean whatever I can from them — stories, experiences, jokes, whatever… I have a hard time not seeing them as a missed opportunity.

Every day the future becomes more real. The idea of college and life after college becomes less of an intangible fantasy and more of a hard reality.

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