As Columbus Day weekend drew to a close, the waves of prospective students faded away—the voices of tour guides telling us that Bartlett was originally a gymnasium and that the gargoyles on the top of Hull Gate tell the story of a UChicago student grew quieter while both bright and bleary eyed prospies alike shuffled slowly away from the busiest walkways. In the past, Columbus Day had been nothing but a day off and a reminder that in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue (or so they say). But this year, thanks to prospective student weekend, it took me back to a year ago—when I, along with the majority of the class of 2014, had no idea where to go and what to do.
The college application process was nothing less than painfully long, but to its credit, it also taught me a few things that are very much applicable to college—and beyond.
- Don’t overdo it
- Let your personality shine through
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions
I wasn’t the kid who applied to 14 schools (really—I wasn’t), but I knew a couple of people who did, and their senior year lives were just awful—as in, didn’t-even-go-to-homecoming, got-two-hours-of-sleep-a-night awful. I found that it really was easier (and more meaningful) if I focused on one or two schools. So, as RSOs charm unsuspecting first years with Facebook events and free food, I’d suggest that same concept now. So, although a couple of events and some free pizza (…gelato, Korean beef, curry…) never hurt anyone, make sure you find what interests you most and stick with it.
I worried a lot about how I could change myself to be the best possible applicant—but then realized that I had no idea how to be everything good that one could find in a student…and besides, that would be extremely exhausting anyway. So instead, I wrote my UChicago essay about my neon day-glo bike and panda t-shirt, and got in (somehow). The point is, I learned that I should be respectful and professional, but also be myself, because talking about myself (in a respectful, professional manner) is a lot easier than talking about the person who I thought I should be. I expect that when it comes time to enter into the job/internship application process, this will still hold true.
I had a lot of questions, and I asked them. I had the names and lunch hours of the admissions office workers memorized (seriously). I was adamant. And it helped a lot, as I found that I learned a lot by just releasing my sillier inhibitions and asking my questions (though at the risk of being repetitive, remember the importance of professionalism). College, especially the University of Chicago, has so much to offer, and though flyers and sidewalk chalk messages are very effective, you might be able to find even more opportunities—or opportunities that you really want—if you just ask.