‘Round the Mulberry Bush

If the opportunity arose again, the most prominent change is on time



Mulberry bush. The nursery rhyme is about everyday habits, and many may want to make panicking about college an everyday habit as well. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Emma Li, Co Editor-in-Chief

Living a life with no regrets tends to be difficult when that life is swamped with missed college deadlines. Although it is impossible to go back (but if you find a way, let me know), sometimes the only thing we can do is warn the future generations about the oopsies we make along the way. 

Of those oopsies, the biggest is time. One of the very real effects of procrastination are in the case of mailed transcripts and materials, or even digital documents that take multiple days to process.

“Mailing transcripts can take a while, depending on where the college is,” senior Mari Cosmopoulos said. “For example, two of mine need to go to Toronto, and obviously I needed two to three weeks’ leeway to do that.” 

Essays are the most time consuming, but there are ways to cut down that time. 

“I had maybe two or three essays prepped ahead of time,” senior Nya Anderson-Pittman said. “But, every time that I would come to a question on an essay for a college application, or for a scholarship application, I wish that I saved more of the answers that I just typed in the box. Whether it was 50, 100, or 150 words, I wish I’d saved a lot of those shorter responses, because I’ve come across them more than once. And had I saved them, I would have a basis for how to respond to those questions in the future, rather than having to come up with something off the top of my head.”

Whether the method is a Drive folder separated further by essays for each school, a Google doc compiled of all essays, or drafts on paper, staying organized is imperative to keeping up with deadlines. One method is a spreadsheet with lists of schools, research, essays, transcripts and any other priorities. Spreadsheets are also convenient because of the ability to make and copy tabs to make further changes. When priorities shift, which is plenty normal, it is important to reevaluate the possibilities. 

“The college that I chose, it’s because of the program that I want to go to for my career in marine biology,” senior Raylee Young said, who is committed to Central Methodist University. “I was not focused on schools like Harvard or Yale, those schools that like everyone dreams of going to. I wanted to just stick towards my career, the cheapest option, but also a school that I know I’ll be able to make it through and stay without having the challenge of being repetitive and a bigger school. My school is a little smaller, so the classes won’t have like 100 people, and it’ll have a regular high school classroom. Smaller is better for me, because then I can actually talk to my teacher instead of just emailing her or something.” 

Another way to determine fit is to look at the school from different angles. Whether it is size, location, major, extracurriculars, name, rankings, cost, food, or anything else, one of the best ways to find out is to visit. In the case of time and resources, sometimes visiting one big school in the area and one small school in the area can provide a framework to apply to schools farther away. 

“If I could do something differently, I would visit more colleges before I started the process so I could learn more about different schools and their programs beforehand,” senior Carter Sniff said. 

Resources beyond schools themselves include online forums and search tools, counselors, family, alumni from this school and colleges, admissions officers and many, many more. QuestBridge is an application portal that low income prospective students can apply to use for elite schools. This, among many other websites, may be something to look into. They can proofread your essays, help you do research and tell you what you need to hear, but may not always want to admit to yourself. 

“I don’t think I had a challenge I didn’t expect,” Sniff said. “I think I knew a good amount of the process because I had an older brother who had gone through the process before me.” 

That kind of help is invaluable, especially on deadlines. While schools do give a grace period for items such as recommendation letters and transcripts which are beyond the applicant’s control, deadlines for the majority of schools in the United States are hard deadlines. 

“The December 1 priority deadline isn’t mandatory, but I wish I had known a little beforehand,” Cosmopoulos said. “That included things like better housing and scholarship offers. Before that, I thought it was just a recommended, optional thing, which it is, but it’s a lot more beneficial for you if you submit before the recommended deadline.”

Details such as optional essays and recommended deadlines may be optional, but in some cases, “optional” is a word used to weed out the faint of heart. If there are two applicants with similar interests and backgrounds reflected in two applications, but one wrote the extra essay and one didn’t, it doesn’t take a genius to choose between the two. 

However, according to U.S. News, some schools allow for extensions hours, or even days late. In those situations, applicants must email the admissions office to request an extension. While that may sound like a lifeline, schools keep a file on every prospective student with every email, interview, tour or application between them and that school. Additionally, that includes a time stamp, according to professional college counselor Sara Harberson, founder of Application Nation. 

In any case, all the preparation that can possibly be done with the 24 hours in a day multiplied by the many years of people asking where you want to go to school is rarely perfectly enough. 

“I definitely think I would have aimed higher,” Anderson-Pittman said. “I think I would have gone for the schools that I didn’t know as certain only because I’m proud that I got into college, but it wasn’t, ‘Which schools am I getting into?’ it was, ‘Which college am I going to?’”

Ability level may be one of the most crucial points to consider during the search. This is where you will learn, have new experiences, meet new people, suffer and live for the next two to ten years. Medical students, law students and people who will go right into grad school can even exceed that. Living, in the sense that those who choose to live on campus will have to make a new morning routine, get used to a different kind of water, maybe have to share a bathroom for the first time and much more is a lot. Considering the academic rigor of a school also implies the kind of people you will be forced to coexist with. If all of those people are like you and you have relatively high self esteem, that sounds great if that’s what you want. If all of those people are different from you and that’s what you want, that’s great too. In a word, there may come a time in the not so distant future where you have to lock yourself in your room and think about how you want to live and what, and maybe even more importantly who, you want to be surrounded by. 

As many seniors who have been in it for the long haul know, the regular decision season is approaching all too soon, or maybe not soon enough. Before we can all lock ourselves in our rooms to have a good panic, the school doesn’t define you. You define the school.