Have you heard of meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh? They deliver the prepared ingredients of complete meals to your door so all you have to do is fire up the stove and cook it.
Let's break down the preparation of a meal into its two essential components:
PREPARATION OF INGREDIENTS + ACTUAL COOKING OF FOOD = YOUR DINNER
Blue Apron and HelloFresh handle the first part (preparation of ingredients, i.e. meal prep) so you only have to do the second part (actual cooking of the food).
We can think of how to get into college in a similar way.
Getting accepted into college is like cooking
We have to have fresh and high quality ingredients. This is your value, your credentials, your accomplishments, and so forth. To demand more, we have to offer more in terms of value.
We also have to have skill in putting everything together and actually cooking it. This is the presentation and ability of you and your teachers to articulate that value in your essays, letters of recommendation, and resume. To demand more, we have to effectively line up our value with what motivates the colleges we’re trying to influence.
If you are not yet a senior, put as much effort as you can into improving this first part.
All the work students do in the years prior to their senior year of high school is the preparation of the ingredients (building their value in the eyes of admissions committees). Your ingredients are your greatest potential area for gain. If you have time on your side, you should pour as much of your time as possible into developing your strengths and your resume for college application.
If you’re a senior, you have to do the best you can with this second part
As we close in on the end of the year, most seniors are in their final push to complete their college applications (and especially those who are applying early decision). This is the part where they are cooking the food; they are trying to bring out the flavors of those ingredients in the form of the best possible presentation of their college application.
At this point, the ingredients you have are what you have to work with. So you must do your best presentation of the ingredients with what you have. You can see how your overall results are limited on the front end by the quality of your ingredients.