How to survive college applications: A complete guide

Image from author. Top: Pictured here is an incredibly small proportion of the overwhelming amount of options provided to applicants. 

These days it seems like everyone is complaining about college applications. Students are drowning in the workload for a process that doesn’t feel fair. To make things worse, there is an abundance of contradictory advice. It seems like no one even knows what to do here. But don’t fear, I have the solution. In my opinion, it’s simply a problem of over complication. Contrary to popular belief, college applications can actually be a painless, stress free process if you just make the right decisions. 

First of all, where should you even be applying? I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of advice about “safeties” and “reaches” and all that, but really that’s the coward’s way out. The only real choice is to pick one school and stick to it. College admissions officers can sense weakness, and nothing is weaker than applying to more than one school. Even if they cannot see which other schools you are applying to, it’ll be obvious. A student who applies to only one school will have a drastically different application than one applying to a range of schools, because one is a confident self-assured individual and the other is a pathetic loser who is expecting rejection. 

In addition, when you choose to apply to only one school, all that workload you’ve been whining about suddenly disappears. Isn’t the process so much simpler now? Gone are the days of a million supplemental essays, multiple application portals, ever growing piles of application fees and hard to keep track of deadlines. All you have to do is finish one application and then you’re done! Besides, do you even want to go to college if it isn’t your top school? Sure, you might have managed to gaslight yourself into believing your local state school is just as cool as Harvard, but we all know you’re kidding yourself. The world doesn’t need another waste of space student who partied their degree away. If you’re not getting into a top school, you might as well do something useful with your life instead. 

Now, I’m sure I know what you’re thinking. If I’m only applying to one school, should I at least be applying early decision? The answer to this is a hard no. If you think the only way you’ll get into a school is by pledging your allegiance to them and competing against a smaller pool of applicants, you have no business applying to that school in the first place. If for some reason you have to apply early decision (let’s say your parents are making you), use this to your advantage. Tell the school that if they don’t accept you, you’ll just end up selling drugs to middle-schoolers in order to get by and that the college admissions officer will have to live with that being their fault. But overall, early decision should be avoided. No one likes a desperate applicant and nothing is more desperate than trying to get in before everyone else. 

The same thing applies for your essays. If you follow every piece of advice you find on the internet to appeal to colleges, it’s going to look like you’re trying too hard, which is always a bad look. In fact, the best strategy is to write something that makes you look like an awful person. When an admissions committee reads your essay they’ll think that the rest of your application must be perfect in order for you to be this bold. That way you’re already in their head as an amazing applicant. They’re only spending a couple minutes on your application anyway so it’ll be easy to confuse them. Besides, when compared to a sea of pretentious, self-aggrandizing applicants who think they’re God’s gift to Earth just because they put together a half-assed non-profit funded by their parents, you’ll look refreshingly honest.  

The most important thing to remember throughout your whole application is that confidence is key. Your application should stand for itself without you having to really spend that much time on it at all. So when all your friends are working overtime just to get into a midtier no-name school and you’re chilled out waiting for that Ivy League acceptance letter, you can thank me. 

DISCLAIMER: Neither the Hatchet nor Anna Davis accept liability for the consequences of following the advice herein.

Anna Davis is a senior at Washington High School and she grew up in Fremont, California. This is her first year writing for The Hatchet and she hopes to cover topics such as student culture and art. She is the president of the Creative Writing Club. She is also the Technical Coordinator for the Performing Arts Club and has stage managed multiple productions for the club. She hopes to one day become a professional author but until then she wants to study creative writing, history, or sociology in college.

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