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The College Countdown | Sydney Hecht

“Today is September 22nd, which means that it’s almost October, which means it’s almost November 1st.”

As a current senior, I can attest to the fact that for many of us, this is the primary way we’ve measured time throughout the past few months. Computing the number of days left until college applications are due, organizing spreadsheets, essays, and possible majors, and trying to keep up with school work have consumed the Class of 2023 recently, and with October looming uncomfortably close, it makes everything feel even more urgent. Especially with the chaos of the next few weeks, it’s more important than ever to find ways to destress and unwind. So, although I’m struggling to find balance in my life as well, here are some ways I’ve managed to stay sane throughout the college application process thus far.

Make a playlist to listen to while you work:

I, for one, cannot work in silence. Whether in the middle of writing essays or deciding you just need to take a break, making a new playlist is one of the best ways to spend your time. This way, scrolling through Spotify feels almost productive, and it’s a lot easier to work once you’ve made a fresh, new playlist. Depending on how I’m feeling one particular day, I have two, very different types of music that help me most: one that reflects my current music taste, titled “her’s, tame impala, etc.” and another of purely 2010’s throwbacks, which always helps me wake up at the end of a long day. Although working with music in the background might not help everyone, this is one of the ways I, personally, have destressed in these trying times. By doing this, I’ve definitely learned to enjoy the process of writing for college a little bit more.

Work in different environments

In a desperate attempt to force ourselves to be productive, my friends and I have started going every Monday afternoon to what we’ve dubbed “Coffee and College Apps.” This is, in a nutshell, exactly what it sounds like: we try to commit to one day a week to go to a coffee shop (usually Parakeet Cafe of Blue Bottle Coffee in One Paseo) and dedicate our time to working on college apps, regardless of what we might have going on at school in our other classes. By doing so, I find we’re more productive most days; rather than dividing our time between college essays and normal classwork, we’re able to put more of our energy and focus into one set of tasks. This, in combination with the slight peer pressure to stay focused, makes writing college essays feel significantly more doable.

Even if you can’t go out with friends to work on your essays, changing your routine at home also makes writing come much easier. A classic case of writer’s block can be solved by changing environments, like moving from the kitchen to the couch, shifting your surroundings by changing your clothes or taking a shower, or making yourself a snack to take a quick break from writing. Of course, all of these methods may not work well for you, but for me, this has helped break up the monotonous writing process.

Try to recognize when a break might be necessary

My final piece of advice is to make sure to not overextend yourself as much as possible. Although the looming deadlines make everything seem more urgent, stepping away from your computer can be a game changer when it comes to facing writer’s block. This allows you to come back to your writing with a fresh perspective and a greater mental capacity to write, which always helps me come up with ideas for my essays that I truly love. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to keep writing, even switching from your computer to a pen and paper helps break things up and keeps you motivated to keep writing. Personally, many of my best ideas have come from a piece of notebook paper. Again, this particular tactic might not work well for you, but for me personally, this is one of the most foolproof ways I’ve found to help me stay focused and in the mindset to write.

Hopefully these tips help you navigate through the upcoming months of college applications, because, at least personally, they’ve definitely helped me stay more motivated and focused. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it helps to remember that all of us are going through this together, and that come our second semester, we’ll be able to actually enjoy the remainder of our senior year. I wish you all the best in your college applications and decisions, and look forward to celebrating our successes at the end of this school year!

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