Even though school has just started, college doesn’t feel that far away. Besides the fact that I’m totally freaking out about what I need to do in school to get into a good college, are there things I should be doing outside of school?
Dear College Crazy,
First of all, relax and take a deep breath! Even though the college process can seem overwhelming it’s important to take your time and think about the steps you want to take and the things you need to do to get where you want to go. A lot of college applicants believe that colleges are looking for a particular kind of person, someone who gets straight A’s, does tons of volunteer work, is in the National Honors Society, you get the idea. But that’s not true. While colleges do value good grades, they aren’t looking for another stereotypical “smart kid.” They want to see what you care about, the things that make you uniquely you. Don’t focus on what colleges want to see, focus on who you are and give your all to the things you care about. If you love music, show admissions officers that you are committed and are part of things like the band, choir, or music theory, and stick to it for a few years to show you can commit yourself to something and give 100%. If you love sports, play on a team, but also practice on off seasons to improve, and maybe bump up to varsity, show that you love what you're doing enough to work hard and get better at it. Volunteering, even in small ways, is a great way to display that you care about things outside of yourself and want to make positive contributions to the world. The key, I think, to know what to do outside of school, and how many things to do is to take a look at yourself and at how much is going on in your life. If you are really interested in soccer, but have been doing gymnastics for three years, which would you personally regret more, having never tried soccer or having given up gymnastics? Of course for some people there is enough time to do both, but pay attention to your health and grades, because although colleges want to see that you have a variety of interests, they don’t want to see that you are doing too much at the expense of your grades and/or health. If you are already feeling overwhelmed, or you still feel like you need a second opinion talk to you guidance counselor about what’s going on. He might also be able to help you find colleges that meet your interests instead of trying to measure up to another college's values that are too overwhelming or dissatisfying for you. Remember, don’t stress too much about this stuff, because no matter what you should care about your emotional and physical health above all. After all, does where you're going college matter more than what you are going to do after college with the education you’ve received? Hope this helps!