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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Letter of College Advice to Future Seniors

Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. (Elise Naftulin/International Dateline)

Dear future WIS seniors, 

Maybe you’ve been thinking about college for some time. Maybe you’re a junior, starting to assemble a college list and wondering if 30 schools is too many (it is). A sophomore, choosing your IB courses based on the prerequisites for a certain program. A freshman with a dream school. Someone who hasn’t given a thought to any of it. Whoever you are, if you’re curious about the application process, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned after having gone through it. The short version: the process is a slog, but it’s going to work out. What’s more important than anything else is not to let college aspirations consume your life. 

I’ll be honest. In high school, there were more than a few times where college was an obsession. The pandemic isolated me from my peers and kept me at home, so the concept of living in a new place with friends was exhilarating. In the fall of my junior year, I attended multiple college webinars per week, many of which were packed with other juniors. I read the “Fiske Guide to Colleges” cover to cover. Every time I worried about my grade in a class, whether I’d just taken a bad test or didn’t understand the current unit, I’d check the GPAs of students admitted to my current top schools. By the fall of my senior year, I felt like I was having college-related conversations in every hallway, during every quiet moment in class, in the line to buy lunch from the Student Center. At that point, I’d cemented a mental link between my life’s potential and an acceptance letter from a prestigious institution. Even one disappointing grade seemed to signal inevitable doom: I was deteriorating as a human being. 

If what I’m saying sounds at all familiar, I promise you that nothing I’ve just described helps to produce a good college application. None of my obsessiveness ended up changing my grades or pushing me to work harder. Instead, my attitude ensured that I’d have trouble reconnecting with my priorities once admission deadlines had passed. I’m having to re-train myself to write poetry, to set aside time for my friends, to read books, to run. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to keep in touch with what you truly prioritize in life, what you truly value about yourself, and pursue those things as far as you can. Not only will you be happier and healthier, but you’ll have a clearer idea of what universities would suit your aspirations, and the college essays you write will be compelling because they’ll reflect what you love. 

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It’s especially important to remember that your interests are more permanent than your preference for any university. Colleges you think you’re dying to attend now will probably drop off your list, especially if you’re years away from applying. In tenth grade, I thought I’d apply Early Decision to Columbia University, and in eleventh grade, I thought it would be Vassar College; I didn’t end up applying at all to either school. I know a lifer who daydreamed about a Canadian research university and thought they’d never want to attend another relatively small school. In the end, they didn’t even apply to the Canadian school and are now committed to their top choice: a US liberal arts college. Another one of my friends was deferred from four of their first choices and was then offered a once-in-a-lifetime scholarship opportunity to another top school. It’s impossible to know what your college goals will turn out to be, so you can save some stress by focusing on your real priorities, rather than obsessing over what you think is your top choice or worrying about getting into college at all. I promise it will work out in the end. 

Read this again at the end of senior year — you’ll know what I mean. 

All the best,

Elise, Class of 2022

By Elise Naftulin

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