For me, the process officially began on August 1st 2014, the day both the Common Application and the UC Application opened. I created my accounts and selected the schools I wanted to apply to and their corresponding majors. I also glanced over the essay prompts; created documents for them so I could start writing as well.
Before I knew it, senior year began three weeks later. No one ever tells you how intense that first semester (or trimester and a half) are. Between juggling all my classes (1 AP, 2 community college classes, and three CP classes) and my other (non-academic) obligations, applications were put on the back-burner. But I was always thinking about them, essay drafts were written, edited, rewritten, many times before I'd written what I considered near-perfect college admission essays. I filled out different questions on the applications whenever I had a little extra time. Teacher recommendations were requested as well.
That crazy process took me all the way to January 4th, 2015, when I submitted my last application. Then the waiting officially began. It's funny you don't necessary realize how much you care about these applications until they're out there and you're waiting to hear back. Some say that you shouldn't think too much about them, but if you're like the rest of us, you know they'll be on your mind until decisions are released.
Focusing on school and not solely on decisions was hard, I spent quality time with my calendar during those couple of months. Before too long, March Madness began (and no, I'm not talking about basketball!). Every other day, one university or another was releasing decisions, some gave a specific day, others released decisions without saying anything before hand. When a day is specified though, the days leading up to it seem to go so slowly, and I was this intense combination of optimistic and anxious. To say, I was on edge, wasn't at all far from the truth.
There's nothing like getting an acceptance letter that you weren't expecting, for me, that joy alone made the entire process worth it. Words cannot describe (I'm serious about this, it's really hard to put into words) the thrill and the excitement you feel at that moment. Both are especially hard to contain. Reading about your “exceptional talents and academic achievements” being recognized at that level is hardly an everyday occurrence.
That being said, for most of us, there are also rejection letters to contend with. Some of them don't hurt too much. After that initial shock, you surprisingly bounce back quickly (obviously, this happens mostly with universities you aren't attached to or particularly inclined to attend.) I received one of those, and while it stung, I wasn't too upset about it. Unfortunately, the next day's rejection wasn't like that. That next day I received the letter that I was rejected from my number one college (the one I had dreamed of attending for nearly a decade.) The numerous hours of hard work and all my efforts were fruitless, or so I felt at the time. The shock that hit me that day has yet to leave me. It's funny, as long as decisions haven't been released, you hold out hope, but then you get that letter and you realize it's over (at least for now.) I'm not going to lie and say I'm perfectly fine now. Though the silent streaming tears of that first day are gone, I'm still upset, a little hurt, and very shocked. Many people would say I should have been more realistic, knowing that acceptance rates have only been going down and that I was competing against the best of the best (in the world!) But despite being very disappointed, I cannot find it in myself to regret it. I had hoped that university would see all that I had done, and see the potential I know I have. I really thought they'd give me chance, but clearly I wasn't what they were looking for.
Though the entire admissions process ended on a very (really very very) sad note, there isn't a single part of it, I would have changed. I've learned so much about myself and my potential and that knowledge isn't going to go to waste. My dreams and ambitions for life are still the same, I just have to go about it in a slightly different way.
Unfortunately almost all of us will go through this experience. Acceptance rates at every level are going down, some more drastically that others. The elite universities (the Ivies, Stanford and other top tier ones) have become ridiculously selective, to the point you cannot really understand what they want. They all have their “types” as diverse as these types are, the universities have rarely strayed from the kinds of applicants that they know they like and those they accept. For the rest of us, that puts us at a tremendous disadvantage. If we do not fall into one of those categories, the climb is suddenly very much steeper. Now, I'm not saying this to discourage anyone, but it's always good to be aware of how admissions work (at least to a small degree.)
Some refer to the admissions process a game to be played and when you play it right, you win. That is one way to go about it, there's another way, one I call “being yourself.” These two choices have their advantages and disadvantages. When it's a game to be played, you generally tailor your entire application to please a certain university, now I'm not saying you shouldn't try to impress colleges, but there is impressing them with you as yourself and there's impressing them with an image of yourself.
I chose to be myself, which admittedly came with some risks. In a sense, I wasn't trying to impress admissions, I was simply telling them about me. I didn't claim to be exceptionally intelligent or a social extraordinaire. I was just me. I talked about my passion, drive, and initiative that has carried me through everything I've done (with God's grace of course.) I chose to take a picture, rather than paint one. There wasn't a single side of my personality I left out, my stubbornness, sarcasm, and slightly aggressive nature was all there for them to see. My goal was not to just get in, but for all the universities to see the real Aishah, and admit her, not some specially designed version of myself. It was a risk, but I wanted them to see me, who I am, not only for my intelligence but who I am as a whole person.
For those of you that are approaching this special, once in a lifetime experience (even if its a few years away), I would suggest you decide what path you want to take. I'm not saying that you have to do what I did, that was what I needed to do for myself. You have to be the one to decide what path (maybe a new one altogether?) is best for you.
So good luck to all of you! The college admissions process is really a special time in your life, so make it memorable, go all out and apply wherever you want. After all, if it's meant to be, nothing and no one can stop it from happening.
I'll leave you guys with this quote, and wish you all the best in all your endeavors be it academic, professional, or personal.
everything will make perfect sense.
So for now,
laugh at the confusion,
smile through the tears,
and keep reminding yourself
for a reason.”