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FIND AND APPLY | COLLEGE ADMISSIONS | March 21, 2012

7 Lessons The Hunger Games Can Teach You About College Admissions

By Taylor Cotter | StudentAdvisor.com Staff

The Hunger Games is a tale of competition, relationships, betrayal and success. Sound familiar? At StudentAdvisor.com, we thought The Hunger Games drew some pretty close parallels to the “College Admissions Games.” To celebrate the release of the upcoming film adaptation of the book we wanted to share some college admissions pointers from Katniss and Peeta.

the hunger games

Follow the 7 lessons from The Hunger Games below to understand the bizarre world of college admissions:

1. Admissions Can Seem Random

Though there’s a system to college admissions, it isn’t too far off from “the reaping.” Prim and Peeta were picked to be tributes randomly from thousands of names. Though some colleges adhere to a fairly strict algorithm for admissions, it’s likely that when you start seeing where your friends are accepted and rejected, the process can seem totally random.

Instead of questioning why your friend was accepted somewhere you weren’t, or you were chosen to battle to the death on television while your friend wasn’t, it’s best to accept the uncertainty of the process and that you are fated to end up at the colleges to which you were accepted.

2. You Have To Compete With Your Friends

Katniss and Peeta knew each other since they were in kindergarten. They may not have been close friends, but they knew that they either had to compete against each other or work together. There were times when they worked closely, and times where they sold each other out. When applying to colleges, you may be applying to many of the same schools as your friends.

There are times when you may resent the fact that you have to compete against them and want to sacrifice your relationship for an admission to that perfect school. However, like Katniss and Peeta have taught us, everyone can win if we work closely together. Trade tips about tours, essays, and interviews while avoiding burning any bridges – there’s a chance you may be spending much more time with your friend than you imagined.

3. You Don’t Know Who You’re Competing Against (and Some People Have Been Preparing Forever)

In The Hunger Games, the protagonists were thrown into the arena with 22 other tributes from all over the nation. Some of the “career” tributes had been preparing since they were born, while some, like Katniss or Rue, were thrown in at the very last second with little time to organize or plan. Though some of the careers had an advantage by being clear about what skills they would need, they often underestimated the strength and will of Katniss.

When applying to a school, your application can be one of thousands that a school receives. Some of these other applicants might have had parents who are alumni, some might have been working to go to a certain college their whole life, and some might have applied on a last-minute whim. It’s not worth your time or energy to compare yourself to the other students who will be in your applicant pool. It is crucial to concentrate on your strengths and best qualities (whether it’s your SAT scores or skinning rabbits) and rely on those to get ahead.

4. College Admissions and The Hunger Games Start When You’re 12

At age 12, your name is entered into the pool to be a tribute in The Hunger Games. This may seem too young or too unfair, but when it comes to selections like Rue and Prim, it’s not up to them. Many people don’t start thinking about college admissions when they’re in the 6th grade, but it doesn’t hurt.

If you have a younger sibling or cousin, it may give them an edge to begin thinking about what subjects they're best in, which activities they enjoy, and what college has to offer. Many college juniors and seniors who play an instrument or who play varsity sports start developing their skills in middle school.

5. It Helps to Find a Mentor

Haymitch may not have been the choice mentor of Katniss and Peeta, but he was certainly smart, experienced, and knew what he was doing. Take a look at your friends, parents and teachers and find one or two people who you can truly trust throughout your admissions process.

The college application and admission process can be grueling and emotional, and it’s crucial to have someone who you can turn to for advice and support. Haymitch specialized in tough love– which college applicants can always use. Find someone who is willing to be honest with you throughout your process.

6. Brace Yourself for Unsuspecting Twists

During The Hunger Games, the Gamemakers throw in a number of twists and turns to test the tributes. Some of the most memorable were the muttations, the tracker jackers, setting the arena on fire or creating an earthquake. Gamemakers are the fictional Admissions Officers, and it’s possible that admissions officers can twist the process without your consent.

Remember when Vassar College accidentally admitted 76 students? Sometimes admissions officers miss their deadline, receive way more applications than expected, or run into other unexpected bumps in the process of getting you your letter by April 1st. Try to stay calm and expect the unexpected as much as possible. Unlike The Hunger Games, it’s likely that you’ll have a relatively smooth go-about through admissions. However, there might be a few bumps in the road. Be prepared.

7. Get Used to Playing Up Your Story

Katniss and Peeta fabricated an entire love story to get ahead in The Hunger Games. Should you go so far in your college essay? Probably not. However, it will help to capitalize on the resources available to you.

Did you have an awesome experience on a service trip? Talk about how it changed you and makes you a great potential college student, and leave out the parts about your long car ride or the boy/girl you met. Are you writing about someone who inspires you? Making sure you’re writing about you, and not about them. Applications essays are like your screen time during The Hunger Games – it’s your time to shine and sell yourself.

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