23 April 2012

Preparing for the Big Day

Seize the Day: How to Give Your Best on College Test Day

Summer, and the dreaded college applications, tests and exam season might not seem too close yet, but they’re coming. For sure. By now, you’ll probably be starting to think about your revision program. However, in all that frenzy of work, have you thoughts about how you will cope with the big day itself? Sitting that college test, interview or exam?
Failure to prepare for the actual day when you will be sitting the college test can cause real stress. The trauma of a bad interview or application experience can stay with us our whole lives leading some to eventually need help for depression or addiction. Especially if we have spent weeks and months working really hard to prepare for it. Tripping up at the final hurdle would be terrible after that. Yet it can be avoided. Here are a few tips to help keep you cool on the big day.

Cometh the Dawn

After getting a good night’s sleep (you have done that, right?) the most important thing to sort is a good, healthy breakfast that’s packed with protein and complex carbohydrates. Sounds obvious. Yet nerves or the desire to cram that final five minutes of preparation in before you leave the house must not get in the way of this vital meal. Choose something that will give you long-lasting energy, such as eggs, fruit or oatmeal cereal. Try to avoid caffeine and sugar. Dress in as comfortable clothes as is appropriate and check the weather forecast so you won’t be too hot or too cold.

Then, do your last few preparations. Hopefully, you’ll have already worked out when the interview, test or exam starts, where it is being held and how long it will take you to get there. If you haven’t done that yet, DO IT NOW! Avoid a panicked, last-minute rush to the college at all costs. It will really put you off. Have you got everything that you need ready? Spare pens, interview notes etc (lucky charms and candy optional…).

Once more unto the Breach

After getting to college, there’s still time to make some final preparations. Turn off your cell phone, or even better, see if you can leave it somewhere safe. Chances are you won’t be allowed to have it with you during a test in any case and it avoids the embarrassment of it ringing mid-process.
Go to the bathroom and try to keep calm. Try not to speak to anyone else outside the test hall about the amount of preparation you, or they, have done. Instead, take six deep breaths and tell yourself you are going to succeed. Be confident. After all, you’ve already done the hard work. Now it’s time to show ‘em what you know and why you deserve to go to their college.

Knowledge is Power

You’re in the room; test paper in front of you; pen in hand. Time for some more deep breaths before you dive in. Concentrate on your own paper - don’t be put off by other candidates scribbling furiously around you. Read each question carefully then read it again. Know how many marks each question carries and whether it divides into sections. Work out your timings so that you leave room for all the questions you need to tackle in the time allowed. The same applies to an oral interview. Consider what you're being asked carefully before replying.

When you do start your response, make sure you answer the question posed and don’t just regurgitate your knowledge regardless. There won’t be any marks or credit for deviating from the instructions, however impressive your alternative answer might have been. Don’t worry if you get stuck on something and don’t waste time fretting. Take some more deep breaths and move on to the next question. You can always try to come back to the troublesome one later.

Finally, if you are running out of time in a written test and still have questions to answer, make notes on the paper giving details of how you would have answered the question if you had had time to do so. Include argument ideas or equations if relevant, or make a list of bullets giving your key points. It’s much better than leaving the question blank and you might get a few extra marks that could make the crucial difference to your application.


After the interview or test, don’t indulge in post-mortems with other candidates. They will only stress you out with speculation. Try to wait patiently for the results and then, hopefully, you can start celebrating. Don’t dwell on it after it’s over – what’s done is done. Have something nice lined up to do straight away afterwards – and no, we don’t mean going on a drinking binge. How about a trip to the movies or a family meal out instead?

Best of luck!

Janine Hardy is a freelance writer from England who specializes in life coaching and self improvement writing for a number of local publications. She works with many good causes including helping and advising students at local colleges and writing on behalf of an alcohol addiction center.