Application deadlines and you

plug

The Olin Admission Deadline is January 1st at midnight!

/plug

Hello, prospies!

I remember how I felt while applying to colleges. It wasn't that long ago! I was in your shoes, soliciting letters of recommendation, rounding up current senior grades, and getting SAT scores sent. I wrote and rewrote my essays countless times. And I was one of the weary applicants who trudged through a snow/sand/thunder-storm on the eve of the application deadline to submit all my documents postmarked to the correct date. In retrospect, I should have aimed to submit calmly and confidently, on some Tuesday in December, rather than careening into the deadline with a flurry copyedits and content revisions. But at the time, my last-minute late nights felt appropriate, somehow, like I was paying my dues to my semester of struggle. That way, once it was done, I could say that I'd done all I could.

Could I have finished 'doing all I could' two weeks before the deadline, instead of two hours? Yes. definitely. But it's tough not to be tempted by a later target date. This is, of course, a trap. My advice is this: Give yourself a week of freedom at the end of this month. I've had a few years to think about how I wish I'd approached my applications (and now a highly relevant job, for perspective). If you're feeling stuck with your nose to the grindstone, I'd like to help you step back, breathe, and start to see the forest. Maybe it'll help you navigate around those trees.

foresttrees.pngSki free, friend. Ski free.

My biggest frustration with my application season was the feeling that I wasn't doing anything new - just talking about what I'd already accomplished beforehand. If Olin appeals to you, you're probably a big doer - you fill the day with exciting, rewarding activities, and if you can't find the opportunities you want, you make them. I was constantly on the move, creating adventures for myself and my friends, inventing, discovering, pushing myself (normally, it pays to be specific in your essays, but in this case my goal is to affect your thinking but not your content). When I wrote my essays, it felt like much of creativity came to a halt. I felt trapped by the text-boxes, chained to my talking points.

I've since realized that the time wasn't wasted. It was a growth opportunity (one that, admittedly, I only half seized). Today, I find joy in carefully examining the choices I've made in my life while tying them together into a narrative. It turns out, applications are an ideal time for you to practice this kind of self-reflection. While there is value in simply doing, it's important to know why you do what you do. How have you grown because of your experiences? What have you learned about yourself in the process? This is relevant to your application because: How will we understand you if you don't you understand yourself? Help us out with your essays. It's not enough to say that you created X or took action around Y. You have to share what it means to you, and make it clear what it would mean for us if you were here at Olin. It isn't easy, but it's key. Reflective practice will make you more effective in many parts of your life. Maybe the essays are a worthwhile use of time after all!

Now that (I'm sure) you're eager to jump right in, let me encourage you to from another perspective. Let me put on my admission officer hat.

pb131103.jpgClick to enlarge

Right now, the Admission office feels like the calm before the storm. It's my first time through the cycle, so my colleagues are (almost gleefully!) warning me to batten down the hatches and clear my calendar. We're hiring temporary assistants to help us with the deluge of mail and email that we are poised to receive, and making guesses as to how many more applicants than last year we'll recieve. All this to say: We're gearing up for a lot of work. And many applicants are like I was, choosing to hold off their submission until the last week or the last day. Well, the college's CIO is in the office now chatting with Charlie, and she's laughing about how we always seem to try to crash the servers on the last day. My colleagues and I will be back to work on January 2nd, and our toil - data entry and filing - will surely go down in history. And then of course we'll finally get to read the applications (which is always a pleasure, but it's a very time-and-energy-consuming sort of pleasure). Basically, it will help us immensely if we receive your application before we leave for the holidays (by Monday the 22nd of November), but of course we understand if you need more time to get everything together.

This brings me to my final point, however. It's a lesson that I've learned the hard way, many times over: When you have a project that involves coordinating many moving parts, don't imagine for even a second that once you've prepared all the parts, you are close to done. I once scheduled an hour-long meeting to integrate the Mechanical, Electrical, and Software componants of my POE project. We were still ironing out kinks after a weekend of work and one-and-a-half all-nighters. After all that work, Wizard's Chess was a qualified success. The next time I worked on a similar project, I knew what to do. My partner and I got the individual pieces working much earlier in the semester, and managed to get all of the components working in conjunction with one another in the late afternoon of the day before the final demo. All we had to do was arrange all of them into a small cage (which we had planned in advance), by artfully lowering them in (which we hadn't). "All we had to do" - HA!  We spent the whole night getting all of the parts of our Phoenix Clock into the cage without breaking or disconnecting anything. And of course there were stumbling blocks. One that surprised us was just how bulky the microcontroller's bundled up power cable turned out to be! We had about an hour to shower and eat breakfast before presenting. 

phoenix_clock.jpg

With panache

All that to say: For your own peace of mind, try to finish up your applications early. Just pretend to to get all of your materials together at once, and you'll discover what surprises or delays arise. You can adjust or tweak whatever details need adjusting and tweaking... but only after you know that you can get it out the door (and into the hands of a mail carrier) if you absolutely need to. And hey, if you give us some time to review the contents of your application before the deadline, we may be able to let you know if you're missing anything. Wouldn't that be nice!

In short: don't delay. You're engaging in a worthwhile process (while giving yourself a proper winter break). You're doing us a favour, by distributing our application-reading stress across many more days. And you're taking steps to avoid any last minute crises that might pop up. michael-scott-win-win-win.jpg

Best of luck with you applications, prospies! We're all looking forward to getting to know you.

Posted in: