How to Get Into College


Today, the Common Application for the class of 2019 opened. Everyone in the Columbia Class of 2018 Facebook group expressed pity for their rising high school senior friends. Time has flown so fast, it is hard to believe I had created my own Common App account one year ago. But I will never forget the stress, the hopelessness, the despair, the feelings of inadequacy, the tears, and the pain. Essays are not my favorite things in the world. Somehow, though, I ended up getting accepted to “the greatest college in the greatest university in the greatest city in the world”, according to my dean, James J. Valentini, also known as “Deantini”. I shall now share how to get into college (perhaps more specifically, a prestigious college, if that’s what you’re going for (that was bad grammar by the way, never end with a preposition, and yes, that’s the first step: know your grammar)).

Organization is crucial. The first thing I did after I filled out the basics (name, birthdate, parents, etc. but not awards, extracurriculars, etc.) of my Common Application was create a folder on my laptop called “!!!COLLEGE!!!”. That makes this folder the first thing I see when I open my documents. Then, within that folder, I made a separate folder for each of the colleges to which I applied (and one for your Common App essay!). Then I went to each of the colleges’ writing supplement section and copied each prompt onto its own Word document. Many colleges will have the same prompt (so you scream out “hallelujah!” because that makes your life so much easier). Still, make sure you have a new Word document representing each of that college’s essay prompts. I named the documents “Columbia Essay I”, “Columbia Essay II”, etc., and each time I edited the essay, I renamed it (i.e. “Columbia Essay Ia”, “Columbia Essay IIa”). Feel proud if you get to write “Princeton Essay IIIk” (as I did!). Once the essay is perfect, change it to “Columbia Essay I Final” so it’s easier for you to find and copy into the application.

The early bird gets the college. Start NOW. Yes, RIGHT NOW. If you are a rising high school senior, you should be finished with your first draft for each of the essays (Common App and writing supplements) before school starts. If I can do it, you can too. No, it’s not because I’m an amazing, fast writer who is absolutely perfect the first time (although thanks if you thought so!). It was torture. I was 99% sure I had ADD/ADHD/dyslexia all at once because there were so many things I wanted to do other than sit on a hard, worn swivel chair in front of my 15 inch screen laptop all day. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and if you want to get into college, you have to suffer for it first (you know, the college has to know if you’re deserving or not). Let me tell you though, near November (or sometimes October), when the early applications are due, you are going to be so grateful you finished your first draft before school started. Why? Because all you have to do is edit. Send it to your brother, your parents, your teachers, your principal, your violin teacher for all I care (bonus points if you send it to your senator), get everyone to edit your essays. I am blessed with a genius brother who literally got 100% on all of his European history essays (oh wait, make that 110%), so I was pretty much set with a great editor. But one other person’s not enough. I had my brother’s freshman year of high school English teacher as my essay mentor because he is extremely through and critical. Find your mentor and remember to START NOW.

Get involved…unless it’s too late. If you haven’t done anything out of school except play video games or hang out with friends doing nothing and you’re going to be a senior, I’m sorry, but don’t try applying to the more selective schools. You’ll only be wasting your money (yes, applications have fees. So does breathing). If you’re a junior, you may have hope. But, if you’re a freshman and you have drive, then I love you. You are the kind of person I want to mold into a First Class Model of the Ivy League. Do something different and stick to it. Oh, and it helps to be really good at it too. And make sure you can win prizes for this activity. If I could do over high school (shutter), I would have taken up archery. It’s different (especially for my race because you have to consider that) so it sets me apart. The goal is to stand out among all those dull applications. The main thing though, is to win competitions. That fills up your honors and awards section really well. Also, do community service. Don’t just do it either, START IT. Be a leader (everyone loves those people) of a community service project (everyone loves those too). So it’s a win-win situation for you (one win because you’re a leader, another because you’re volunteering). And be smart. Literally. Get a straight “A” average, win academic honors or awards, do well on the SAT and ACT (those are important when applying for jobs too). And about the SAT, you have to start studying when you’re young. I started in 8th grade; my brother started in 6th grade (guess who got the higher score. Hint: it’s the person who studied longer). Maybe I’ll write about the SAT/ACT another time.

Give yourself a chance. I applied to twelve schools. I was accepted to four, waitlisted to three, and rejected from five. My best friend was accepted to all her schools. However, my friend only applied to colleges she knew she would get in. I only had one safety, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many schools accept you. You only need one good one. If I were only accepted to Columbia, I would still be in the same situation as I am now. However, when you apply, you can’t tell the future. Maybe your dream school is one you’ll definitely get in. Then by all means, just apply to that one. But if you don’t have a dream school (as I didn’t), apply to as many as you want (or can afford). Lots more work but totally worth it. Don’t be afraid of your reach schools either. You’re most likely better than you think you are anyway.

I probably have more tips and secrets that have faded away from lack of use, but these are the ones I used and for which I am most grateful. It absolutely sucks to be a rising high school senior (especially now college is getting harder to get into and more expensive every year). But once it’s all over and you’ve seen all your acceptances, you’re going to feel so proud and accomplished. And then you’ll remember it starts all over again next year. Just be wise about your actions and appreciate your last year of not doing laundry/cooking/mundane chores. Try to be productive and take each day as the day you’ll write your winning essay.

A Much Needed Rest Day

Rest Day

Today, I originally planned to start on both the 30-Day Oblique Challenge and the 30-Day Thigh Challenge. Well, that was the plan until I had to mow the lawn this morning. That just broke my 18-year streak of not mowing the lawn. Kind of how last year, I broke my 17-year streak of not personally washing the bathtub (as in, the bathtub was cleaned, just not by me for 17 years). I’ve already admitted on here that I’m going to be a pathetic housewife, so this should be no surprise. I also figured out today that I will not mow the lawn ever again. Or weed the garden right after mowing the lawn. Especially not the day after you do a whole bunch of squats and lunges after a very long time of not doing squats and lunges. Why? Because my thighs are killing me. Continue reading

What’s Up With Life?


Okay, I’m going to be selfish. What’s up with MY life? I’m so sure you all want to know about it (if you can’t sense the sarcasm then I’m sorry. I’m really bad at being sarcastic). First of all, I’m really touched that people still read my blog even though I wasn’t around to post anything new. People are awesome. People are the best. I love people (and people love me!…right?).

So first, let’s talk about my solo recital! As I predicted, I’m going to say how I played well, especially after the intermission, and a lot of my closest friends came and my teacher’s students and my scholarship benefactors and my teacher’s friend who is 91 years old, has cancer, and ran a marathon the weekend before. And got in the newspaper for it. See? People are amazing. Continue reading

Piano Rules My Life


Today, I figured out that I am so glad I am not going to a conservatory. Apparently, those musicians practice about seven hours a day. I tried to practice seven hours a day, but I couldn’t do it. The most I’ve done in one sitting is four hours. The most I’ve done in one day is…well I honestly don’t know because I don’t keep track, but I know for a fact it’s not seven hours. Besides, college is the time to finally get that social life you gave up in high school, and if you’re practicing seven hours a day, all alone in those musky practice rooms with out-of-tune pianos, you’re not going to get a social life. The only relationship you’ll have is with your instrument. If you’re lucky. Usually, the instrument always hates you so you have to keep practicing in order to appease it. Continue reading

A Quick Update on the 30-Day Challenges!


If you haven’t noticed, I changed the header on this blog! It now matches my personal theme with the Writeback picture and the little picture on the tab at the top, the one with a “-15″ on it. Salmon pink is totally awesome. And no, it’s not my favorite color, but it does look nice, if I say so myself. Oh, and I do love salmon, especially salmon steaks since they’re filled with lovely omega-3 fatty acids that are ever so good for you! But, let’s get to the point. How are the 30-Day Challenges going for me? Continue reading

Writeback: Essays from My Past


I took a look at my past essays or random things I wrote on Word documents, and I think it’ll be interesting to share some of the better ones with you! I know there’s a thing out there called “Flashback Fridays”, so I’m going to do “Writeback Wednesdays”. No, just kidding. They’re going to be on Fridays, and not every Friday, because I don’t have that many interesting ones unless you want to take a look at some vocabulary lists I learned back in the day. Then by all means, send me an e-mail, and I’ll send you my vocab!

I hope you enjoy the first of this series! It’s titled “The Life of Maria J. Sun”, and I wrote it in my sophomore year of high school for debate class. Continue reading

My Life is a Nicholas Sparks Novel


I am a hopeful romantic. I have ideas of what I look for in a guy, and I envision what my future husband would be like and all the nice things he will do. I have hope that someone out there is as perfect as I believe my future husband will be. Well, I mainly call myself a hopeful romantic because I’m not quite sure what a “hopeless” romantic is and besides, that doesn’t sound so great, now does it? I like to stay on the positive side. I am a hopeful romantic.

The thing is, my love life is kind of like a classic Nicholas Sparks novel, particularly in terms of The Notebook. Continue reading

Where Has the Time Gone?


I remember when my neighbors across the street moved into their new home. Their youngest child, a son, looked like he was two (I’m not sure of his age). I remember practicing piano and watching the little boy run over to the mailbox. He could barely reach to open it, but it was his favorite thing to do outside. He loved getting the mail from the mailbox. I remember when he got his tricycle. His dad would sit on a chair outside or on the front step watching as his son biked around in his new tricycle. I remember when he tried his older brother’s bicycle. He learned very quickly how to ride a bicycle. I watched as he slowly made friends with the other kids in the neighborhood and invited them to play kickball on the driveway or basketball on the patio in the backyard. Today, as I practiced piano, I watched as another kid rang his doorbell to ask if he could play. I watched as they walked by the mailbox. They were both taller than the mailbox now. Continue reading

It’s Time to Support and Accept


I’m not one who walks around talking about the most controversial news of the day all the time. I usually don’t get into those discussions until someone else starts the conversation first. Once I start talking about it, I usually try to be a little lighthearted and sarcastic so no one ends up dead when we’re done. But today is not one of those days. Today, I’m going to speak first.

Last night, I was curious about the recent 2014 Grammy Awards ceremony (okay, not so recent but still) so I looked it up on YouTube in hopes of seeing the whole thing in one video. No such luck so far (let me know you find one!) Continue reading

A Well-Balanced Life

"Thinking About Apple Pie" photographed by yours truly (me!)

“Thinking About Apple Pie” photographed by yours truly (me!)

It was a considerably exciting day today. I competed in my first ever photography competition, and I won! Last week, I attended a Photography 101 class to help me prepare for this competition. I called up one of my friends, who is a ballet dancer so she has a stunning body (and it’s because of good genes because her whole family is thin and gorgeous), and then I dressed her up and took pictures. I used my smartphone. Well, in my defense, my digital camera decided to die on my new batteries so I don’t know what to say. Besides, my phone took better pictures anyway (ah, technology these days!). The theme was Yummy Fashion (hence the apples), and I personally did a sub-theme of “All-American” because she has apples and because she’s a little like the Statue of Liberty. Continue reading