by Alex Marco
Sprawled in front of me is an array of papers, books and various technological devices. My desk is just as cluttered as the desktop of my MacBook Pro, windows for a daunting number of college websites open, some minimized in my dock to be dealt with later-- hopefully. Ah, the joys of senior year...
I should introduce myself. My name is Alex, and I’m a senior at one of New York City’s most prestigious public schools. In addition to the stress of applying to colleges, there’s a lot more on my plate: volunteering at a hospital, nannying and tutoring four days a week, maintaining straight A’s in a rigorous curriculum and trying to maintain my sanity as a normal seventeen year-old who still wants to go out on weekends and see movies with friends. Add my ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) to the mix, and the whole ordeal becomes dizzying.
I’ve always been ridiculously busy (I find having a packed, well-structured schedule helps me stay on track), but I’ve never applied to colleges or universities before -- and while my parents attended college, it was in Romania, so their experience isn’t with our system. I have no older siblings who could have gone through this process before me and shown me the way, so mostly I’m on my own. That’s not to say I haven’t had any help (my mother has been diligently reading guides on how to apply to college, taking pages and pages of notes), but I often feel overwhelmed.
There are so many aspects to the application process besides the applications themselves (the SAT/ACT, SAT IIs, interviews and a million other things), and the whole world doesn’t stop so high school seniors can try to get into the college of their dreams. In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite; school just started a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve already had several exams in nearly all of my classes! So much for hanging out with friends… unless they want to help me study in the library.
Thankfully, I’m finally starting to get into the twelfth grade rhythm. You have to balance what’s important now with what’s important for your future. Easier said than done, but I’ve found that as my schedule settles down, other matters resolve themselves and things start to fall into place. The key is to have a plan and follow it. As I said before, I use a highly structured agenda, mapping out the day’s activities (sometimes on an hourly basis!) in my planner to make sure that I get to everything on my list for that day. Yes, after working for hours and doing homework for a couple more hours, it’s discouraging to see, ‘WORK ON THE COMMON APP!” scribbled in bold handwriting on a post-it in my planner, but I know it’s important. I’m applying to a bunch of prestigious, super-competitive schools (ten or so, as of today) that require my immediate attention, and if the only way I give them that attention is to neurotically plan out my life in a little notepad, so be it! Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right?
The long-term goal is college, medical school and then a bunch of other intermediary steps to finally establish myself as a pediatric surgeon. Believe me, I know that after high school, my workload will only get worse. Realistically, I’m only going to get busier as the years go by, and I have more than come to terms with that; I embrace it. I know that by establishing good habits and getting myself organized now, my bed will be made for the future, as an old Romanian proverb advocates (thanks, Mom and Dad!). This journey is going to be a difficult one, but I know that in the end, all my hard work will pay off. But for now, I’m taking it one step at a time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to finalize and submit my Common Application (or so says my planner!)
Until next time,
Alex Marco will share her journey from high school to university with us in a series of articles, "Alex Goes to College.” She has agreed to accept your questions about this adventure. Please submit questions and topic suggestions about getting ready for and into the college of your choice to AlexGoesToCollege@add.org.