Hey everyone! So… It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally college application season for me! As you might know, I’m a senior in high school. That means, from August to probably around January, I was, and will be, frantically writing just about a million college essays and filling out applications. I’m only slightly joking, because I’ve already written 66 pages of failed Common App essay drafts, equating to about 40,000 words. My friend jokes that I should publish a novella called “Failed Common App Drafts by Pinyu.” It’s really crazy to think about how it’s been four years. When I started high school, I was absolutely clueless about everything. I never knew science fairs, research, ISEF, RSI, anything like this ever existed. But over these short four years, it has come to define some of the most important parts of who I am, and I really couldn’t be more proud of how far I’ve come to grow into this person that I never imagined I was capable of becoming. Because of this, I just wanted to talk about some of the things I’ve learned about college admissions, college search, whatever it is, in these four years. I’m so sorry that I’ve been super busy nowadays, and I’ll write a more thorough post afterwards, I promise, but in the meantime, here are the random thoughts, tips, and advice about high school, college applications, and everything in between that I’ve been thinking about recently!
1. Have the mindset that anything is possible
Someone told me recently that I tend to ignore barriers. Not in the literal sense, but that I’m really good at ignoring the idea of impossible. I think many of the things that I did were things I would’ve thought was impossible if i hadn’t done it myself, and it’s often easy to look at news stories of the crazy accomplished kids out there, and think that it’s impossible to accomplish anything close to what someone else did. Don’t form these strict ideas about what impossible means to create unnecessary barriers for yourself, because you’ll never realize what’s possible for you if you don’t try. One mindset that I had throughout the entire process was that genuinely, the worst that could happen is that someone says no. So I just went forward and did it. I never thought that I would get into RSI, but I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t try, so I just applied, telling myself that it was better that I had tried. Which in the end, that definitely turned out to be true.
2. You don’t have to start high school with your whole career planned out
Even though parents ask me ALL THE TIME which classes I took, what summer courses I did, how I perfectly designed my life before I even entered high school, the truth is, I never had that time that I figured out what I was doing. That’s actually the whole reason why I started my blog, because I wanted to document my whole journey of figuring out everything, to share it with other people so they could have someone to know what to do (or what not to do!) as they were beginning their journeys. Don’t stress too much about your classes, which classes to take, which AP exams to take, how to get the perfect AP exam scores. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who has been genuinely fulfilled by having school take over their entire life and perfectly planning out all the courses they want to take, so make sure that school and grades don’t take over your life.
3. Don’t set out on high school thinking the end goal is getting into your dream college
Recently, my parents asked me for help for a middle schooler who was crying because she really wanted to get into Princeton. I thought that was terrifying, because the stakes are really high when you have that sort of pressure to have to end up in a certain place. Even now, I don’t want to create a mindset for myself that I have to get into a certain school or else my life is over, because I know that firstly, all schools have their flaws, and secondly, there are thousands of schools in America, I know I can be happy in a lot of places, not just one certain school. There’s a quote saying the best way to never be disappointed is to not have expectations – I mean this in the most encouraging, non-depressing way possible. Don’t create the expectation for yourself that you have to go to a certain school, because you’ll constantly be thinking of “what if” and you won’t fully enjoy the opportunities that you have if you don’t get in where you want.
4. Find happiness within your daily life; don’t wait for delayed gratification all the time
In the 1970s, there was a study called the Stanford marshmallow experiment, where they gave preschool age children one marshmallow, and told them that they could either eat the marshmallow immediately, or wait, and get a second marshmallow. I know what I would’ve picked. As a child, I was insanely good at delayed gratification, and I think that’s how a lot of us live our lives, thinking that we just need to do this, this, and this, then we’ll be happy. While the study shows that children who waited turned out to be more successful later in life, in reality, there are so many of these instances where you have to get used to delayed gratification, like college, job, house, whatever it is, that you can’t just completely avoid living in the moment. That’s why you need to find bits of happiness within your daily life. Mental health is huge in high school – there are so many people who go through a lot, who face a ton of struggles, who feel overwhelmed. There are a ton of different reasons for it, so I can’t talk about it for everything else, but for academic-related mental health, really, really make sure that you have something that makes you happy in your daily life to anchor yourself in your life and keep your work fulfilling. For me, there is a TON of work in research, which isn’t always fun and exciting, but solving a problem or finding a new solution to small things is a way that keeps me happy with my work. Or writing application essays, where no matter whether or not I get in, I’ll have realized something new about myself. In school, I feel good if I feel that I did really good work on a project that I’m proud of. In that way, I can work for long periods of time without thinking that it’s all for one goal of delayed gratification.
5. Realize what’s worth it for you
I’m not going to talk about how you should have a healthy lifestyle or hobbies or whatever, because let’s be honest, none of us are perfect, and we all sacrificed something to achieve what we wanted at some point. In high school, you have to figure out what’s worth it to you. What will you be willing to give up, for what? I think the worst thing that can happen is to leave high school feeling like you wasted your life, and this can translate to a lot of different things. For example, many, many people will say that they felt like they wasted their life chasing the perfect grade, when they could’ve spent the time with people they cared about. Or, some people may regret spending time with people that they ended up not really wanting to be around. I think I was fortunate enough to have spent my time in high school where it mattered the most to me. I know it wasn’t easy, and I gave up a lot of things for it, but I don’t regret it. While I know the process of finding out what’s worth it in life is probably something that’s way too philosophical to randomly think of while scrolling through the internet, don’t be afraid to stop and think, is this worth it?
Alright, so these were my philosophical words of wisdom as an older and wiser senior in high school! While many of these aren’t “easy” tips where you’ll immediately know what to do, I think these tips show the fundamental mindsets that guided how I approached high school, and ultimately, the mindset the most important part of everything you do. Anyways, it’s back to desperately flailing against the college application deadlines and insurmountable wave of college essays now, but comment below with any questions!