This is application season, but it’s another season too. As I look out my office window, there’s a slight breeze in the air and the leaves have a crimson burn. The evening air is crisp and the days are shorter. It’s a season that all but forces the thoughts of sweaters, thick socks and some of the best food grandma has ever made. The smell alone adds another size to the waist-line.
During these festive and bountiful meals pacing is necessary. Piling it high is the temptation second only to dashing for the dessert table. There must be a strategy to make it through without immeasurable pain and discomfort. It takes a plan, time and patience.
I think of another overlapping season. The college application season is equally festive and overwhelming as is the family feast. With this season, however, there comes an unnecessary level of stress, anticipation and trepidation over measuring up to the standards for admission. Much like the season of fall, family and lots of food, the college application season is to be filled with fun. But unlike the season of good food, the college application season is met with what impact it will have on the future.
Is there a solution to ensuring the college application process can be fun, thorough and productive for everyone?
I suggest an approach that in all respects may look somewhat like a five course meal. (Thinking about that just made me hungry!) Here’s a 5 course plan to avoid college application indigestion:
“Most five-course meals open with the amuse bouche (or amuse gueule, depending on whom you ask) a dish that can be eaten in one bite and should ideally excite and prepare the palate for the dinner to come. The amuse is one of the hardest dishes in the progression as it should set the course and bring the theme to the diner in an unmistakable yet playful way. The amuse is normally not counted as a course.”
This stage in the plan establishes a theme to the rest of of the courses. The amuse of the college application should begin early – well before the senior year. With research and discovery, students should enter this amuse stage by doing extensive research regarding colleges and universities they may further identify as good matches. It’s important to ask the right questions along the way. Some of those questions may be: What is the culture like on campus? Are there any internships or study abroad opportunities? Do they have the programs that interest you? Prepare to defend why this college is on your list if someone were to ask.
“A good soup dish expands upon the amuse and brings a new layer into the composition.”
I equate this stage to learning more about the colleges and universities on your list by visiting the campus. The campus visit can add an entirely new dimension to the discovery and learning process prior to making application. This truly is a new layer and dynamic. By visiting the campus, students are able to visit with actual students, hear stories, talk with professors, share in a classroom experience and obtain an overall “feel” for the college. If given the opportunity, students may even consider staying the night on campus.
“The entree is usually not made with red meat (though, again, there are exceptions) and features proteins, starches, vegetables, and a sauce. It’s a small course, or a number of small courses on one plate to start the dinner.”
By the time the entree arrives in the college application process I would suggest a student has already built a solid list of “good-match” colleges or universities. It is during this stage we encounter many elements that make this such a rich experience. In addition to the application itself, students will find themselves taking and submitting standardized test scores (ACT or SAT and SAT subject tests where applicable), submitting transcripts, requesting letters of recommendation, building and preparing activities and involvement lists (this could be in the form of a resume or a ZeeMee.com account).
“Following it there’s a cheese course (to close the stomach, as the French say).”
Cheese is grossly overlooked in the American cuisine. It is, by far, one of the most critical components that can make or break the meal. The wrong cheese with a great entree can leave a bad taste. The college essays are very similar in playing such a critical role in the process. It should not be overlooked. Rather, the selection of topic and voice in the writing process can either excite the reader or disinterest the reader. Carefully draft the college essay to reflect who you are. At this course in the meal, cheese is to be consumed slowly to appreciate the flavor and enhance the overall experience. Likewise, the college essay should not be rushed. It is important to take the time to draft and redraft. You want your essays to compliment and enhance the many elements that tell your story.
“Rounding everything up is the dessert (from French “deservir – to clean the table”) course.”
I don’t know about anyone else, but this is my favorite part of the meal. By the time I get to dessert I’m nearly full, but the sweet celebration is worth every savory bite. This is the moment to “clean the table” so-to-speak. You’re done and your hard work is going to pay off. Your applications are submitted in their entirety and now it’s time to wait for word from each of the colleges or universities on your admission. Remember, it took a plan, time and patience throughout this journey and if you’ve followed this 5 course plan, there’s no doubt you are ready to celebrate. Well done!
All italicized quotes are from Jonas Mikka Luster, Former Cook who answered a question on Quora and recently featured in the Huffington Post Blog.