You know I love analogies:) And it occurred to me, as I was having a weekend filled with the stress that comes from a procrastinating teen, that the college application process is a lot like trying to lose weight.
Planning is your friend. Be it figuring out which applications are due when and what materials need to accompany them. Or planning to have healthy foods in the house, healthy snacks in your purse, tasty menus for the coming meals, a schedule for exercise.
Ask for help if you need it and help others help you. If you are writing an application essay and it just isn’t coming out how you’d hoped, find a teacher who will give you an honest critique. Be specific when you ask for help. Maybe you want your spouse to stop bringing tempting food into the house. Or you want your high school counselor to include certain past accomplishments on your college recommendation. If you want a workout partner, find one. If you want someone to proof-read your application essay, ask someone.
Conversely, it is okay to go it alone and ignore advice. Your co-worker’s low-carb diet may not work for you. Your teacher’s idea for a college essay that sells you by comparing your life to juggling may not speak your authentic voice. You may not want your spouse to be the person to tell you what you should be eating or not eating. You may not agree with your mom’s advice about which colleges you might like.
Make good decisions. Think about the food you choose to put in your mouth. Consider if you really want to eat at a restaurant and if there is one with a menu that has healthy options. Exercise or lounge on the couch and watch the latest episode of your favorite show… you decide. Ask yourself if you really should be having a sleepover the night before your college application essay needs to be written or the application is due.
Make good use of resources and technology available. Maybe an online calorie or nutrition tracker will add motivation. Or a diet forum will provide needed support. It is much easier to apply to multiple colleges when you use common online applications. Check out college guides and internet chats.
Slow and steady wins the race. It has been shown time and time again that the more gradually you lose weight the greater likelihood you will keep it off. You can’t do justice to your college application the day before it is due. Working on it a little at a time will go a long way to ensuring success.
Ask yourself how much you really want it. Look for motivation in your reasons. If you want to go to a top-tier university, what will it take to get accepted there? If you want to lose weight, what are you willing to give up or do? How hard are you willing to work for what you want? How much effort are you willing to expend?
Be realistic in your expectations: It took a long time to put the weight on and it takes a long time to take the weight off. There is no healthy way to lose a ton of weight fast. Some of us just are not meant to be a size 4. Duke University gets tens of thousands of applications each year and accepts only around 10% of them. There are just not as many freshman slots as there are applicants, qualified or not.
Nobody said it would be fun or easy. As the old saying goes: “Being fat is hard; losing weight is hard; choose your hard.” Filling out college applications is boring and repetitive and a lot of work. That’s just the way it is. If you want something badly enough, you’ll put up with what it takes to get it, even if it isn’t fun or easy.
Consider the consequences of your actions and be willing to accept them. If you choose to eat that piece of cake, or donut, or whatever, you choose the consequences. If you go out to eat Chinese food the scale will likely show a higher number the next day. If you start down the road on a long binge, you may end up kicking yourself. If you don’t turn in your application on time or don’t put in enough effort, you may not get into the college of your dreams.
Sometimes more than one approach is needed. If counting calories isn’t working for you, try something else. If you don’t like your Weight Watcher’s group meetings, find an alternative. If the first essay you write isn’t good enough, write a second. And maybe a third.
Have confidence in yourself. Visualize yourself as the person you want to be. The only one who has to believe that you can run a 5K or lose weight is you! Be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now is not the time to be modest; any college would be lucky to have you:)
Ultimately it all comes down to you. Yes, you can have workout partners and friendly weight loss competitions and diet buddies. Yes, your mom can help you organize your college applications. But at the end of the day, only you can lose the weight or do the exercise. Your husband may want you to lose weight; your parents may want you to go to a certain college; but what matters is what YOU want. You can’t do this for someone else. It is your future. It has to be your motivation. Your college application. The rest of your life.