Undergraduate Admission Blog

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September 8, 2016

What to Avoid When You’re Applying (or how to conquer your senior fall)

The time had come.  My bachelor’s degree was newly in hand, and I decided to accept the first job I was being offered (it was the middle of the Great Recession and the fear of unemployment was very real). Thankfully, working with high school seniors as they navigated the college application process turned out to be a great fit for me! I learned many things working at a high school (did you know there’s an app that calculates the likelihood you’ll get a snow day?!), and each fall was a lesson in how difficult it is to be a 12th grader.

Senior year is tough! You’re in your hardest classes to date, you’re taking on more and more responsibilities, you’re hitting a milestone almost every week…and then we ask you to apply to college.  12th grade may never be easy, but you can certainly make it less hard.  Though each student’s college process is unique, there are a handful of behaviors/mind sets that I have seen cause unnecessary stress time and time again. Some call them the Four Horseman of the Common Appocalypse (and by some I mean me), but they are all avoidable if you know how to recognize the signs!

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  1. Focusing too much on what you can’t change.

Do you keep worrying about that C you got in freshman English? Are you regretting your decision to quit the track team? Many students spend their senior fall focusing on the past, and it drains their time and energy like Snapchat drains my phone battery. Instead of stressing about things you can’t change, spend your time writing a well thought out essay, striving for great senior year grades, and putting together the best application you can.  Think upward and onward!


  1. Ignoring the advice of your elders.

Do you nod when your counselor speaks then instantly wipe the conversation from your memory? Do you reject your parents’ guidance like it’s your job? I’m shocked…really, I am. Keep in mind that, while they might not always be “hip and with it,” the adults in your life can offer important insight into your application process (and even help you identify your strengths so you can better highlight them).  Ignoring their advice can cut you off from some pretty valuable information, so why not take all the help you can get?


  1. Falling in love.

No, I’m not talking about the lab partner you’ve had a crush on for years (though you should really just tell them already)! I’m talking about the head-over-heels feeling students sometimes get for one college on their list.  There’s a difference between having a first choice and being so fixated on a school that you can’t even fathom going anywhere else.  It’s called the college process for a reason—no one knows exactly how it will end!  Though I sincerely hope you are admitted to your top choice (and obviously I hope your top choice is USC), I strongly encourage you to keep an open mind and find a number of institutions you would love to attend.


  1. Avoidance.

Are you leaving things to the last minute? Have you been putting off looking up what supplementary essays you need to write? Are you reading this post on January 14th? You are procrastinating! Despite what you may tell yourself, no one works best under pressure (trust me…this is a “do as I say, not as I do” situation). Multiple drafts are the key to a good essay, and making significant progress before the eleventh hour is the only defense against a sloppy application. You’ve got enough on your plate senior year. If you don’t have a plan yet for how you’ll complete all of your essays, supplements, applications, etc. make one! You don’t want to rush (or worse, forget something) in this process. So stop reading this blog and get to work—I know you can do it!


1 Comment

  1. Ziyi You says:

    Thank you so much! This speaks to me. It was so helpful.

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