"More" has somehow become the mantra for getting into college. More AP classes. More activities. More work, more hours, and more accomplishments. But the sad truth is that you are never going to do "more" of anything than all the other students applying to college will do. So here's a radical concept–do less.
Here are five Collegewise suggestions of ways you can achieve more by doing less.
1. Do less test prep.
It might seem surprising that we’re leading with this considering that several of our offices offer test prep. But the amount of time many students spend studying for these exams is often totally disproportionate to the tests' importance. I'm not saying you shouldn't prep at all. But if you're spending more time doing test prep than you are doing homework, running with the cross country team, or spending time with your family, stop–it's time to do less.
2. Focus less on trying to fix your academic weaknesses.
Sure, if you're getting a C or a D in trigonometry no matter how hard you try, it's reasonable to seek outside help. But a lot of students are tutoring just to get the "A’s" in courses that don't come naturally to them. So they're spending almost all their time focusing on their weaker subjects. It's no wonder a lot of those kids are burned out and don't enjoy school. What would happen if you spent less time trying to fix your academic weaknesses? Yes, you might not get an "A;" but how much better could you be in your stronger classes? How much time would you free up to read a book you've wanted to read, or to take on a project in a class you really enjoy, or to teach yourself computer programming, cooking or how to sew? Maximizing your strengths will help you stand out a lot more than trying to fix your weaknesses will.
3. Spend less time being interrupted by email, texts, social media, etc.
We ask our Collegewise students to turn their cell phones off during our meetings because if we don't, their phones beep every two minutes with an alert of some kind. What would happen if you closed your email, turned off your phone, and logged out of any social media accounts whenever you sat down to do your homework, to study, or to do anything productive? How much more focused would you be? How much more would you get done? You've got to be focused to do good work, and it's impossible to be focused when you're constantly interrupted. So turn them all off until you're done. The emails, texts, and posts will be there when you're done–we promise.
4. Do fewer activities.
Many of the students who start with us at Collegewise are completely over-scheduled. They're doing so many activities that, rather than enjoying and excelling at them, they're just trying to keep up. That's no way to live your life. So we tell them to do less. If you're doing an activity that isn't making you happy, stop. If you're up until 2 a.m. every night because your activities are draining all your time, cut out everything except the things that you'd be sad to lose. Then spend your time and energy really excelling. Focus on how you can improve, make an impact, and learn from what you're doing. And while you're at it, leave some time for yourself. Having free time shouldn't be a luxury; even the world's most successful people still need time to think, reflect and enjoy themselves.
5. Worry less about college.
When we see a student who's taking challenging courses, studying hard, participating in activities and generally having a successful high school career, it's hard to wonder how they could possibly worry about college. There are more than 2,000 colleges out there and you're going to go to one of them. Worrying constantly about whether your SAT scores are good enough for Yale, or how many APs it takes to get into Duke, or what Stanford wants you to say in your essays–those worries just make you focus on the wrong things. Have enough confidence in yourself to know that you're going to work hard and be successful wherever you go. Be yourself in your application and your essays. Don't require an admission from any particular college to validate your work or your worth.
Sometimes doing less is actually the best thing you can do.