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College Counseling Blog

Finishing Touches

It’s Super Bowl week in college counseling. Sixty-six of our 95 seniors have their first deadline on Sunday, November 1, and you can feel the stress in the air.

Seniors are working overtime to get their materials ready. They’re hurriedly refining activity lists and re-working paragraphs of their personal statements. A handful — against all logic and our programming — seem to just be discovering that Common Application supplements exist for many of their favorite colleges. Now, they have 250 new words to conjure about their favorite work of art or why TCU is just the right school for them.
The pressure can be overwhelming. Each piece of the application feels so heavy. Everything has to be perfect, and the picture has to come together just right or admission won’t be offered. How am I supposed to create a flawless document that does my candidacy justice?

In these moments, I’ve landed on a baseball metaphor that seems to help. First of all, your application will never be perfect, and it’ll certainly never encapsulate you as a person. Let that feeling go. Instead, focus on hitting singles and doubles in your application rather than home runs. Each piece of the application needs to carry a portion of your story forward, nothing more. Just try to make contact and put the ball in play.

As you support your sons in finishing strong — either in this application cycle or in those to come — here are some other pieces of advice that might help.

  • Eating an Elephant. There’s only one way to do it: one bite at a time. Encourage him to chunk out the work ahead into bite-sized pieces, a half-hour or so per sitting. Overall, submitting an application is daunting. Divided out, it’s much more manageable.

  • Written Voice. College applications ask for specific stories and moments of personal significance. Woodberry students aren’t always used to writing this way, so it’s worth reemphasizing that academic or over-formal writing doesn’t have much of a place here. We encourage students to read their pieces aloud to determine if the sentence-to-sentence transitions work, and to see if the writing sounds like them.

  • Fine Tooth Comb. Just before the submission of an application, there’s a moment in the Common App flow where a student is shown a full PDF of his application materials. First, he should save that PDF to his computer for posterity. Second, he should walk through that document carefully and in a quiet place. Is everything just where he wants it to be? Is it clear from the Activity List descriptions what a “PLC Leader” or “Fishbowl” is? Do the personal statement and supplements work well together?

  • Trusted Reviewer. We expect each student to show his college counselor his applications before submission. It can help to have another trusted adult review his materials, too. That may not be a parent, by the way, but could be an advisor or older sibling. Feeling the support of a team behind him will build confidence when it’s time to click Submit.

Leave It On The Field. There’ll be a moment when the application is done. Hopefully, it’ll feel triumphant! Encourage your student not to revisit the document, at least for a little while. He’s got school to attend to, and he should “trust the process” from here. Retreading ground isn’t productive. He’ll need outlets for worry, but doubting himself isn’t that outlet. Exercise, good nutrition, sleep, friends, and getting outside. These will help.
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Woodberry Forest admits students of any race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, and national or ethnic origin to all of the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs. The school is authorized under federal law to enroll nonimmigrant students.