What Do College Applications and Chewing Gum Have in Common?

We asked one of our assistant coaches, Sydney, to give us an opinion about college applications from someone who is going through the process right now. Here are her thoughts.

Imagine you’re in the checkout line at Costco, having just eaten lots of samples and having made it this far into your outing (having experienced lots of different things and having lived the 15 years it took you to start thinking about college), and in order to start something new and make it out of the grocery store (begin this new chapter in your life) you need to buy and chew some gum (start fresh) so you can begin trying all new things (embark on your adult life full of learning and adventure in college and after). But before doing any of that you need to chew a lot of gum (preparing and applying for college).

Choosing one category of flavors makes it much easier to select a brand (college) as it narrows down the options. While this seems simple, choosing a flavor is probably the most difficult part of the process. Is it what you’re good at or what you like to do? (The two are not always easily reconcilable.) The practical part of this question would be determining what you are good at because in theory if you are good at something chances are you’ll be successful. The less practical yet still integral part of the question would be what you like to do, because chances are you won’t want to do something you hate for very long. So, you end up with mint; not too spicy and not too sweet.

The next step is to determine the more specific flavors in your repertoire (spearmint, wintergreen, polar ice) so you can begin chewing them up and sticking them together into a ball that will form your resume and college applications (the things that will hopefully make you sound like a very impressive person). Each component of your huge ball of gum should take you a long time to chew, if not chances are that they won’t stick.

Examples of these sticks of gum include but are not limited to: finding a job, completing volunteer hours, demonstrating leadership abilities, achieving better than average SAT or ACT scores, excelling in extracurriculars, maintaining high grades, and building relationships with everyone you meet along the way to maintain a network of individuals in the workplace. The process of building these things up is exponentially more important than the actual process of applying to college or the typos in your college essay.

Staying committed to a set few activities shows colleges–not just tells them–that you are a talented and focused individual, but most importantly gets your resume and application to stick.

I’m not going to share my perspective on what things to add to your resume, because those choices should be made based on your personality, but there are a few things to remember that will certainly help you in deciding what flavors to chew.

First and foremost, your resume should tell a story. The magnitude and frequency of your accomplishments should increase as time goes on, showing you are growing and learning. Your resume’s story also should demonstrate focus. Staying involved in activities with similar purposes creates a very strong resume and application.

This idea of staying committed to a few things more in-depth rather than lots of things half way makes you a significantly stronger applicant for not only college, but for internships and jobs as well. The other benefit to this is that having less to juggle means you’re more likely to enjoy each activity more.

Second it is important to set goals for yourself over time. Set a minimum GPA for yourself for the end of each semester, and decide how much time you need to dedicate towards your extracurriculars based on what you want to accomplish in each. Making sure that you aren’t always just “doing your best” but are working towards benchmarks. Setting goals is the best way to ensure your resume and college applications optimally represent you as an individual.

Finally keeping the end goal in mind. While you won’t know what you want to do specifically or where you want to go to school, you do know what you like to do and what you’re good at. Based on those two things imagine what you would do if you could do anything in the world during and after college. Use that dream as motivation to study for that next test or as a deterrent from making a decision that might destroy your chances at accomplishing that dream.

As teenagers it is extremely out of character to make choices based on the most likely long-term outcome, but if you want to end up at the best place for you coming out of high school and be competitive against other kids that want the same things you do, you’re going to have to be a little out of character in this way.

This is not my perspective on the college application process via buying gum for seniors; it’s my perspective on the college application process via buying gum for freshmen because applying to college does not start when you make a “CommonApp” account. It starts the second you step into high school. Remember that everything you do and accomplish in high school is part of what determines your future, so stay focused and choose your gum flavors carefully.