I know the picture above seems irrelevant, but it’s one of the photos I took the day I found out I had been accepted to USC. More about that story later. Moving on.

It’s that time of year – application season. Or app szn as the kids say. If you’re applying to lots of schools, like I did, you may have been writing your essays since the summer when the Common App released their essay prompts. Also like me, you might be writing and tweaking and tweaking just until the day of the deadline. And that’s understandable, it’s college. Everyone builds college up to be the most impactful and monumental four or so years of your life.

That in and of itself is really overwhelming. I am a year and a half into my college career and I feel like I haven’t done anything remarkable. Not to say that you won’t have either. It’s just how I feel. I’ve built college up to be this launchpad that will lead me to my most successful self. Honestly, my college experience is not what I thought it would be and that’s okay. I’m hopeful that I will get there in time.

#1 There is no perfect school for you and dream schools are overrated.

Now, to anyone reading this who got into their dream school, I apologize and I’m sure you worked hard, but you’re missing the point. There are roughly 5,300 colleges or higher education institutes in this country alone. 5,300. Say you’re applying to 20. That’s 0.4% of all of the colleges. Now, you’re applying to this school so you should understand math and the sheer scale of that number. How can you be certain that your dream school is one of these twenty schools when you haven’t even looked at one percent of all colleges? You can’t know for sure. Back to the point, what I am trying to say is that there are plenty of colleges out there that would be a good fit for you. And there are some that are not (thank goodness for transfers!). But the college that accepts you, the one you choose to attend and put time and dedication into will end up being your dream school. The perfect college is the one you choose. Because regardless of what college you attend, you should be confident that you will use your time and all of the resources and opportunities provided to you wisely. The more you put it to your college experience, the more you’ll get out. So don’t stress too much.

#2 Chances are, you’re not going to be that student with the most spectacular essay. Forget about all of that and be yourself.

When I was writing my college essays, do you know how many times I searched on the Internet for the best college essays? At least once a week, I would be reading stories about a student who wrote his essay about overcoming life’s tragedies and turning to education. The next week, I’d be reading about the student who wrote about Costco. And as someone who loves Costco, I really wish I had thought about that. It got to the point that I was so frustrated with my essays, thinking my topics and content were too ordinary, that I started wishing life would throw me some obstacles and tragedies. Yikes. Then, it hit me. I wrote about something that was easy to write about. I was able to take something and weave my values and passions and struggles through this topic. Also, stop trying to be funny. Unless you’re applying as a comedy major or you’ve done stand up comedy in the past. Then, more power to you. But really, stop trying to be anything more than yourself. You are more than good enough, you’re great enough! College admission officers want you to be yourself. They spend a long part of their day reading essay upon essay, so make sure to be genuine and honest about yourself. Make sure that it sounds like you. 

#3 Have faith in the process.

When the time comes, you might receive an admissions decision that you’re not happy with. One that you feel like you didn’t deserve. And that makes sense. You’ve spent so much time researching the school and its programs, the housing, the social scene, and you’ve truly been able to see yourself thriving there, and yet you’ve been rejected. There are plenty of reasons that are out of your hand. It gets more and more competitive each year but remember these people have been admitting students for a long time. They know what makes a good fit at their college and what doesn’t. You may not be able to see that right now. Just know that you’ll make the right decision in the end because your college experience is in your hands. 

#4 There is so much more to life than college.

I know it is hard to look past the next four years and imagine life after college. But it exists! Don’t get hung up in the process. Write the essays, meet your deadlines, and wait for the decisions. That is all you can do. I know plenty of people who’ve done really great work beyond their college years and while it’s nice to look back on, they knew they would get there regardless.

#5 do not stress about the interviews. Please.

I did at least six college interviews with alumni and some were not so great and I still keep in touch with some of the other interviewers. They have questions given by the colleges to guide your conversation, but your meetings are not the ultimate deciding factor for any college. One of my interviewers told me that nothing else mattered in my life but my four years in college. Another interviewer had attended the university back when ONLY MEN WERE ALLOWED TO ATTEND THE UNIVERSITY. They make for good stories but really, just use it as an opportunity to hear their stories from college. You don’t need to pretend to be some sophisticated, all knowing 18 year old. 18 year olds aren’t supposed to be sophisticated.

Well, that was a long one but I hope you got something out of it. Sorry for rambling. If you have any questions, comment below or just look around the website. You’ll find your answer somewhere. 

Good luck and happy applying!

Mahima Varanasi

Mahima Varanasi

MAJOR: Industrial and Systems Engineering YEAR: Class of 2022 HOMETOWN: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @mahima On campus I am part of OWN IT, a women's leadership team who plans an annual summit based on amazing women helping each other out. Outside of Viterbi, I am involved in political campaigns.