It was only six months ago that I decided to apply to the U.S. for my undergraduate degree. I was selected for the Opportunity Funding program, which would cover all the costs of the application process, and suddenly my distant thought of applying to the U.S. became reality and I was off and running from ground zero.
There was a lot to get done before November 1, when my first early decision application was due, but even way back in May the SAT exam seemed the most frightening part. I needed to get a 1500 just to keep my Opportunity Funding, but I needed much more than that to reach the mean SAT scores at the colleges and universities I was looking at.
Five months may not have seemed like a lot of time, but in that span I had a lot of opportunities to try (and reject) different approaches to studying for the SAT.
Approach #1: Blind Panic
At the beginning, the extra pressure of the SAT was really getting to me, and I started practicing constantly, hoping that I could eventually get a perfect score.
I used to practice in my room with the door locked so that no one could disturb me. I would eat breakfast in the mid-afternoon, and the concept of lunch and dinner ceased to make sense to me. Gradually I started to become slimmer and slimmer, until my cheekbones stuck out so prominently that my sister remarked that she could study the structure of the human skull just by looking at me. My nails were almost half an inch long, and my hair had grown long enough to cover half my face!
And the more I practiced, the less I focused on the other application components. After three months, my application essay was not even started, I hadn’t sent my request for recommendations, and I had stopped preparing for the TOEFL. With the November 1 deadline looming, and a blank page titled “My Soon-to-be Application Essay” staring at me, I realized I needed to get organized.