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So went valedictorian Kate Needham’s college application process.
Applying to ten colleges, many of them highly selective, gave Needham one of the “craziest college decision processes” according to her friend, senior Paige Wendland.
Needham ultimately chose to attend Washington University in St. Louis, but the road to this decision was not without its stresses and frustrations.
At one point, Needham found herself up at midnight, writing an essay for the University of Chicago that was due the following morning.
“I was told to write my essays over the summer so I’d just be done with them, but I didn’t,” Needham said. “What ended up happening was that, right before the deadline I had really brilliant ideas for them, so I ended up writing, I think, much better essays than I would have if I had written them earlier.”
From keeping track of numerous spreadsheets filled with deadlines, application components, and checklists, to changing her mind multiple times about which college she would attend, Needham found support in her parents and friends.
“I think I heard about three decisions from her, and they all sounded really definite,” Wendland said. “She was really stressed out.”
One thing Wendland did to help her? Chocolate.
“Going home from the Missouri Junior Classical League Convention in the car with Ms. Marquis, we fed her an excessive amount of Snickers, and had her talk about her feelings on [colleges],” Wendland said.
To remind herself to not let the stress get to her too much, Needham’s cover of her college binder read, “Take a deep breath,” in bold letters.
Despite all the late nights on GoogleDocs editing essays with her cousin in Illinois, Needham knew all her hard work had payed off when April 1 came around, and she had eight wonderful colleges to choose from.
“Being able to revel in that felt really, really good,” Needham said. “I was incredibly psyched. It was really gratifying, and I definitely got the feeling that [all the hard work] paid off.”
Although she first told her parents that she had decided to attend Columbia University, Needham soon realized that she wasn’t very excited about her choice.
“I thought about it, and I thought about what I want to do, which is to be some sort of creative writer,” Needham said. “That required rejecting what I’ve been told is important, i.e. Ivy League, and embracing what I think is important, and what I really love. I knew I loved Wash U the most, so I said ‘I’m going to make that decision, then I’ll be happiest.’”
It took her some time, but Needham navigated the trials and tribulations of the college application process, coming out on the other end with a clear idea of where she would succeed and where she would be happy.
So ended valedictorian Kate Needham’s college application process.
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Colleges Needham applied to:
University of Missouri
University of Chicago
Kate Needham’s tips on staying organized for college:
1. Have a spreadsheet of all you colleges and all their deadlines– application, financial aid, etc.
2. Also, have a spreadsheet of every application component (application, essay, teacher rec, transcript, etc.) for every college and check things off as they are submitted.
3. Have a separate folder on your computer for everything related to college applications.
4. Go through the website of every college you’re applying to and print out their application components.
5. Only apply to places you seriously think you would want to go. Really, it’s too much work otherwise.
6. Sign up for college mailing lists- some places send pretty cool stuff, like viewbooks or student created materials, and it can be really useful for getting a feel for the place.
College counselor Debi Hudson’s essay writing tips:
1. Answer the question that is asked
2. Stay on topic
3. Edit & PROOF! Proof again and don’t rely on spell-check
4. Be concise, don’t go over length limit
5. Reveal something about yourself not found elsewhere in your application
6. Ask a peer, teacher, parent or counselor to read your essay
7. Be specific, some try to say too much in 500 words
8. Don’t put off the essay till the week of the deadline