THE BLOG
01/02/2014 10:11 am ET Updated Mar 04, 2014

5 Secrets For Surviving The College App Process

This is part of our monthly series 'Mission: Accepted,' in partnership with Minds Matter, which chronicles the lives of four students as they apply for college in their senior year.

I knew that getting accepted by QuestBridge partner schools is a highly competitive process (especially because of the full tuition scholarship), but I admit that I felt disappointed and a bit hurt when I didn't.

QuestBridge is a nonprofit program that helps high-achieving, lower-income students get into college. If a student is chosen as a QuestBridge "finalist," they can use the program's National College Match to rank and apply to up to eight of QuestBridge's partner colleges. If accepted, full four-year scholarships are given.

I questioned my work and abilities over the past four years. Was I not good enough? Were my grades, extracurriculars and test scores not superb enough? After three days of hanging my head and being a zombie, it was as if a beam of sunlight struck my head and gave me this revelation -- I have to let this rejection go and move on. After all, I haven't toiled over my QuestBridge application so that it would collect dust. The good thing is that I can still forward my QuestBridge application to QuestBridge partner schools, such as Columbia (my dream school), Brown and Vassar, in time for regular decision. I can also use my previous personal essay for some awesome non-QuestBridge schools that I want to apply to.

Plus, what would be the fun of blogging on The Huffington Post if I didn't have much material to work with? Can you imagine me writing a post about relaxing and chugging down eggnog during my winter break? Impossible!

The thing is, I DO NOT want to spend winter break wrestling college supplements while a part of my brain declares it eggnog, cookies and Christmas movies season. Home Alone anyone? Looking at the weather in New York, with its alternating rain, snow, and wind, I want to be able to take a break and get the proper amount of sleep I'm supposed to get.

I took things slower in November, but I still worked on my essays into December. This will help me avoid some nasty all-nighters later on and get some time to read over things. It's amazing how asking people questions can tire them out so easily. One night, I was particularly stressed by the integral problems for calculus, a four-page list of terms and court cases to study for my government test, organic chemistry blues and readings for biology and English. I felt so ready to pass out, but I knew that I have commitments to myself, to my mentors, to my teachers and to my future self. When future me reads this blog, I want future me to be proud of my work and overjoyed that she wouldn't have to go through this again... until medical school or graduate school, of course.

Senior year is truly a juggling act, and it has brought me some sleepless nights and some moments when I'm perplexed ("What day is it today?"). However, it has made me treasure the people who have to put up with me and my teenage and college troubles -- notably my mother, grandmother, my friends, the college office staff at my school, my mentors and my teachers. To these people, thank you for helping me in my time of need. You have made this shadowy pilgrimage through senior year and college admissions brighter and less scary to pass through.

Some tips for fellow seniors:

1. Although I do appreciate schools with fun (and impossible) questions (I'm looking at you, UChicago), I found it nice to have standard questions to help you stay on track and remind yourself of why you actually want to go to a certain school. Before dashing through your essays, list some stuff that you like about the school that's specific, beyond, say, its title as a big research university or the numbers on its website. How did you narrow down your choices?

2. Just like how colleges are observing and sniffing you as if you're a new species of miniature frogs or bioluminescent cockroaches (I don't make this stuff up), sniff back and dig deep into the brochures in the corner of your room (They ARE useful and NOT waste of ink!) to look for the treasures at each college.

3. Write as if you're talking to someone, like a pen pal. Be respectful, but still use your own voice. It's your essay!

4. Don't assume colleges will email you the important deadlines. As a semi-adult and assuming you're reading this, you have the time, the Internet and the fingers to search them up yourself.

5. Keep calm, take a walk, chug eggnog (no coffee drinking for me yet, by the way) and write on. The more you write, the easier it is to write about yourself.

My mother told me last summer that applying to college is like gambling. I spread my seeds here and there, and I wait patiently until the spring comes and reveals my fate. There isn't any guarantee of getting into any school. Though the process has no secret formulas and no tricks and by this point, my GPA and test scores are frozen solid, I still need to have faith in myself and perhaps a speck of luck as well.

To my fellow college applicants don't worry too much. Remember that this is our last year in high school and let's create positive memories amidst the hustle and stress and put our best step forth for regular decisions. Enjoy the Christmas music and don't enter 2014 with regrets!