Senior Column – Reiko Inoue ’19

Reiko Inoue, Opinion Editor

To my rising-senior-self,

Hey, what’s up? Just kidding, I know exactly what’s up, your junior year is about to end and it’s sinking in that you’re going to apply to all your colleges and graduate next year and you’re kinda sorta really freaking out. Well, it’s me from the future and I’m here to tell you that you’ll be ok. Mostly. Here’s what you should know:

The hardest part is starting.

Your head is full of anxiety over the whole college application fiasco ahead of you, so I’ll get that out of the way first. Your activity list or grades can’t be changed at this point, so focus on the essays to convince schools that you’re a #kool kid. You know you’re going to apply to some UCs and private schools, so look at the prompts on the UC website and the Common Application right now (like RIGHT NOW–open them in new tabs as you read this) and start mulling them over.

Over the summer, meet up with a friend at a Starbucks or boba place and force each other to brainstorm essay ideas. That really helped ease my anxiety over starting the whole writing process and let me help my friend focus, too.

One thing I wish I’d done more is to have kept myself accountable. I planned out little deadlines for myself to hit, like finish a draft of this supplement by next week and have a final draft to submit by this date, but I missed a lot of them because I procrastinated and wasn’t tough enough on myself. If I had a friend or older sibling checking in with my progress and making me feel guilty for not meeting deadlines, I probably would have produced some better essays.

Speaking of procrastinating . . .

Everyone says not to procrastinate at all, ever, but I know you and you will definitely try to procrastinate. If you must, just remember these things:

Don’t be dumb and submit things the day they’re due (or even the day before they’re due). Websites really do start glitching as it gets closer to the due date, and you do not want to feel the pure fear I did when the Common App was acting a little strange real close to the deadline. Submit materials at least a few days in advance, though the more time you give yourself, the better.

Start financial applications at least a month in advance. These things like the FAFSA or CSS Profile take time to fill out accurately, and you’re gonna need to ask your parents for materials. Don’t make them regret giving birth to you by starting this late.

Try to get the bulk of things done by Thanksgiving break and be almost done with everything by winter break. You really don’t want to be frantically pounding out last-minute supplements while your family’s celebrating in the living room. Procrastinating on important things sucks in general because you’re constantly aware of what you’re not doing, and I personally even get nightmares about what I’m procrastinating on (for real, you’ll want to avoid that), so do yourself a big ole favor and do what you have to do. Please.

Also, get all your testing done before senior year starts. You’ll have enough to worry about come fall.

Get serious about money.

The application process is expensive. There are fees for submitting applications, sending test scores, and submitting extra things like portfolios. Try to calculate all that before making a mammoth list of places to apply.

Plus, you really should think about how much college itself will be. Use calculators on college websites to estimate how much your family would be expected to pay and talk with your parents about how much they can give you. Include financially safe schools in your application list, not just the academically safe kind. Once you get decisions and your aid award letters in the spring, you can appeal for more aid if it’s not enough.

Know that you’ll be out of your comfort zone A LOT

Next year, you’re going to do a lot of things that scare you: apply to colleges and find out their decisions, sure, but also things like getting a job and dealing with rude people or going to college interviews. Here’s what I did when I got nervous around people: breathe and think “I might never see this person again; this won’t matter in the long run, relax.” But there were some really cool experiences I almost didn’t go through because I was scared, and I’m so glad that I stuck it out. So, apply to that crazy reach school, walk into that interview, go up to that person and start a conversation, just go for it, because what have you got to lose?

Also, know that some big, unexpected things will happen this year. Lots of things won’t go as planned. But don’t wallow in self-pity, ok, let yourself feel what you need to feel and then move on. Focus on what’s next.

Plus some general tips that you’ll thank me later for:

Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t only think about your own issues all the times. Your friends exist, and you’ve gotta support them, too. Go have breakfast at Denny’s with them on Wednesdays and rant about mutual enemies. Have sleepovers and birthday celebrations. Everyone says this, and you never really believed them but honestly, senior year is over in a snap. The application process feels like a hellish drag for sure, but once that’s done, it’s all a blur.

Senioritis is real. You think you’re all high and mighty and won’t get hit by it but girl, It hits. Just try not to be late to first period way too much and at least keep up with homework.

Don’t do your thinking at night. Nothing good comes out of scouring CollegeConfidential or Quora or Reddit at midnight.

Do find awesome new Netflix shows like The Good Place and Orange Is The New Black, but don’t binge-watch them during critical weeks where you need to be cracking down on applications. You will not like yourself very much afterwards.

In conclusion, keep your head up and don’t be way too stupid (you’re going to be stupid because this is me we’re talking about here, let’s be real, but don’t over-do it, you know?). Then, you’ll be fine. Good luck, my dude.

Me at the end of senior year