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5 ways to survive the college admissions process during the holidays

Anna von Wendorff is a freshman at Stanford University in Stanford, California USA and plans to major in Management Science and Engineering. She is also a member of the IB Alumni Advisory Council and an IB graduate of Granite Bay High School in Granite Bay, California.


Anna’s experience as a 2013 alumnus may help your students stay sane traversing the college admissions process, especially during the holiday season. Finding a balance between enjoying time off from school or work while keeping in perspective that college applications, Extended Essay and TOK writing all may be looming over a student’s head can be quite overwhelming. As a result, failing to remain strategic in the college admissions process can often be a disaster waiting to happen. Here’s her advice:

1.Start Early! First consider what you want to study. Then, choose where you want to study.

I remember sitting at my kitchen table and asking myself which colleges I should even apply to. Think first about what you want to study. Some of my friends chose to study aviation, culinary, or medicine. They applied to schools which offered specific programs for these fields. If are not confident, be sure to research which colleges allow students to change majors, or consider taking a gap year. Decide what kind of colleges are the best fit for you; 4-year, 2-year, public, private, international, and US universities all have their pros and cons. From this process, you will have a better idea of which colleges you want to apply to, and a clearer vision of why each is a good fit for you. This will make your writing process easier further down the road.

2.Fine-tune your essay over break, so that your teachers or IB coordinator can edit it when you get back.

During break, you have time to write an essay that truly reflects who you are. One of the most valuable aspects of IB is forming relationships with your teachers over both years of the program. My IB History teacher was one of my biggest cheerleaders throughout my college application process!

3.If you have not already written down all of your deadlines and taped them above your desk, do so, and soon!

Write down the deadline as one day earlier and don’t let yourself cheat! If you are going away for vacation, submit your applications before you leave, in case you face internet problems. Admissions systems can (and do!) crash in the hours leading up to the submission deadline, and although many schools extend it, the stress is not worth it.

4.In the spirit of the holidays, make a thank you card for your recommenders.

Counsellors and teachers are especially busy around the holidays, so be sure to say thank you and give a little reminder. Some of my friends did not receive scholarships or college decisions simply because their application materials did not arrive on time, so this will give both you and your recommenders a peace of mind.

5.Even with all of the deadlines, don’t forget the holidays are a time to recuperate and relax.

Take some time to talk to your family, go on a hike, or watch a movie. The college application process has extreme highs and lows, but you become closer to your family, friends, and teachers because of it. You will undoubtedly find incredible friends and great opportunities wherever you go!

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2 Responses to 5 ways to survive the college admissions process during the holidays

  1. Wanda Latham December 9, 2014 at 11:38 #

    Since I have children in college, this interested me. I will also share this with friends of mine whose children maybe going through the admissions process especially with an IB diploma. Starting early and knowing what you want to study and where is definitely number 1. I also liked when you stressed that it was important to form relationshships with your teachers especially if you were in the IB diploma program because you have had those teachers for 2 years and for you they were able to give strong recommendations! Great steps for admission to college!

    • Rachelle Bernadel December 9, 2014 at 11:41 #

      Glad it was helpful!

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