Advice After Reflecting on My College Search & Application Process
Lately, as I've biked around campus, I've seen many groups of prospective students and parents standing together participating in admissions tours. This prompted me to take some time this week to share some of my own thoughts on the admissions process. If you haven't been among the groups on campus recently, don't worry! Touring campus in-person isn't mandatory; in fact I wasn't able to visit campus until after I was accepted when I came for a "Discover Dartmouth Day."
Reflecting on my own college search and application process, I definitely learned a few things that I didn't start off knowing. For starters, don't let acceptance rates intimidate you, instead, redirect your energy towards finding programs and opportunities which speak to your passions and curiosity. I really benefited from exploring Dartmouth's website and making note of my interests in WISP (Women in Science Project), the numerous Social Impact Programs and the Nathan Smith Society (a pre-health program). This is because I knew that I yearned hands-on research experience, opportunities to continue fostering my interest in social impact and a supportive pre-health community.
If you get the opportunity to visit campus, amidst your excitement to rush off and see everything that's humanly possible, scatter a few minutes here and there to jot down what you find yourself loving as your own research will be more beneficial.
Throughout the application process feel free to seek guidance from those in your support system like your school's college counselor. I really treasured mine because she not only supported me but pushed me to present my best self. Once after reading one of my essays she said "It's okay, but you can write better than that." To say I was disappointed would be an understatement but it's important to remember that in this instance, "better" doesn't equal perfect as in, she expected me to write about the perfect topic, event or experience. She simply expected me to write in my own unique way, with the same passion and authenticity that I used when I would talk to her or engage with my essay's topic. While it can seem easy and efficient to view your college essay writing as a system of ticking boxes, for the best outcome it helps to pause and refocus on the meaning or intended reaction instead of the completion.
While I'm sure you've been given the advice to "think outside of the box" when it comes to your essays, I also encourage you to apply this to other aspects of your application. I'm really glad that I decided to take a leap of faith when it came to Dartmouth's peer recommendation component. My peer recommendation was written by two people. How? Well, two of my best friends were co-leaders with me in different clubs. A cool thing about them? They're twins! So, it seemed only natural to have them write a joint recommendation.
Of course, I can't forget about the "I" word; Interviews. This is an application component that can feel very nerve-wracking and exciting all at the same time. In preparation for my Dartmouth alumni interview, I made an interview notes document where I answered the 6 potential questions on Dartmouth's Admissions website as well about 5 other questions that gave me the opportunity to talk about other aspects of myself. These questions/prompts included: "Top 3 things about me" (the main themes of my application that served as a great introduction), "3 things not on my application," and "Which influential figure would you have dinner with?" Brainstorming these definitely helped me feel more comfortable during the interview. I highly recommend holding a few mock interviews, especially with people you don't already know well, to simulate the experience. Also, if you're like me don't forage through your closet looking for the "perfect" green sweater (it's truly not that important lol).
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