Advice from Someone Who’s Been There

We often write about how to break down and organize the college application process in order to make it more manageable and minimize stress. We’re happy to share advice from Jamie Sleepin, a recent graduate from The Hewitt School in New York City. Jamie perfectly summed up how to successfully make it through the process in a letter published in her school newspaper.

A Letter to Juniors from Jamie S. ’17

Dear Juniors,

Now that you are finally upperclassmen, the stress of the college process is starting to creep up on you. Yes, the college process may seem daunting, but take it from a senior who survived, it is not so bad. In case you don’t believe me, here are some tips on how to successfully conquer it.

1. Take your standardized tests this year. Managing your school work and studying for standardized tests is tough, but doing all of that in addition to writing college applications in your senior year is ten times harder. Do yourself this favor: study hard this year and get it done.

2. Practice with real tests. Standardized test books are very helpful, but once you have learned all the tricks it is best to study by taking tests previously given by the College Board. If you are willing to spend money on taking real tests for practice in a standardized test environment, I recommend going to Bespoke. However, there are ways to bypass spending money on it. Personally, I took the ACT, and when I finished all my test books, I printed out real tests from

3. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Give every school a chance. Just because a college might not be as well known as another does not mean it is any less of a great school. So, while you’re researching colleges and you find a school you do not know that much about, don’t just skip over it. Instead, research it a little. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out it has the major you like, quirky traditions that peak your interest, or blend the big school camaraderie with the small liberal arts feel that you crave.

4. Don’t stress over the AP exam. AP exams are meant to be hard. That’s why to get a 5, you don’t need to get a 100%, most times you just need a 60%. There is so much that a college looks at that your AP exam score does not matter. You don’t even need to submit it! I’m not saying don’t try. Please do try and do your best, but if you don’t get the score you wanted, it’s not the end of the world.

5. Be a bookworm. Although researching on the internet is convenient and easy, there are a bunch of great college research books that you can buy. Just be sure when you are looking online or in books that the article/book is published within the last year or two. You don’t want to get bogged down by antiquated facts.

6. Get a student’s perspective. When touring a school, don’t passively trail along in the back of the group. Instead, walk by the tour guide and ask any and every question that you have. A school may seem much more different on paper than it does in person, so college touring is highly important because you get a feel for what the school is really like.

7. Don’t fall in love with the bricks. A school is much more than its architecture. Go beyond the facade and learn about the majors/minors, the internship opportunities, alumni networks, clubs, sports, study abroad programs, etc.

8. Make your own connections. One of the scariest parts of the college process is when you fall in love with a school. I know you might be worried that you are just another name on an application, and you worry that you don’t have anything that sets you apart from the other highly quali4ed applicants. Well, this is false. Just because you didn’t start your own company at the age of 14 does not mean you’re not going to get in. But, something that I found very helpful in my college process is to make yourself known to the college. After a tour email your tour guide and the NY rep to express your interest in the school and introduce yourself. If you find your top choice school, tour again, meet professors and students. Make sure to keep up communication to put a face to your name; that way you’re not just another applicant.

9. Be true to who you are. When writing your Common Application essay, be authentic. If what you wrote does not resonate true to you, it won’t with the college admissions team either. Pick a topic that’s unique and meaningful to you. This is will go a long way in separating you from other applicants.

10. Do your research. When answering supplemental essay questions, research the college/university’s website until you know it as well as you know the back of your own hand. When the college admissions team reads applications, they want to be sure you will be a good 4t at the school, so what better way to show that than to incorporate things that are valued at the school in your essay.

11. Don’t be overwhelmed by supplemental essays. If you end up applying to 7 schools or 18 schools, in most cases the supplemental essay questions will somehow overlap. So, if you get stressed out about writing many essays, take a deep breath and remember that you can use bits and pieces of other essays and sometimes even the entire essay.

12. Don’t procrastinate. College applications are hard and time-consuming. The Common Application essay and your supplemental essays are highly important, so don’t push them off until right before the due date. Figure out what you want to write and start writing them over the summer.

13. Enjoy this year. You only have two more years until everything changes, so enjoy them. I know that junior year is hard and annoying because you’re close to finding out what your future holds but not quite close enough to actually find out, but don’t wish this year away. Work hard, spend time with your friends and family, and relax because, as cliché as this sounds, everything happens for a reason. You all will go to amazing schools that are the perfect for for you!

Jamie Sleppin
The Hewitt School ‘17
Wake Forest University ‘21

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