The college application season will soon be in full swing for high school seniors and I wanted to go over a few simple pointers that will hopefully make the process go more smoothly.
1) Seniors (or rising seniors) should already have a pretty good grasp as to which schools they wish to apply. They should start checking to see if those applications are available yet or when they might become available (most schools will be ready by August 1st).
Check to see which schools on their list accept the Common App (www.commonapp.org). There are currently 456 colleges and universities that now accept the Common App (including University of Kentucky, Centre College, and Transylvania University in KY).
2) In many cases, even if the 2013-2014 application is not yet available, colleges will publish the essay prompts so students can begin working on them over the summer (this is the case for the Common App). It is a great idea to try and have at least one solid essay ready before school gets started. I could have a completely separate blog post regarding college essays but I’ll touch on the main points: Make sure your essay teaches the reader something about you that they couldn’t otherwise tell just by simply reading your application. In other words, don’t regurgitate extra-curricular activities or try to explain away poor grades (or brag about stellar ones). Be creative and allow the reader some insight into who you are and what makes you tick. The essay can be a make or break part of your application. It’s the only part of this whole process you have any control over and it’s not like it’s due next week. Take some time to think about what you want to convey and how you want to say it. PROOF READ – PROOF READ – PROOF READ!
3) DEADLINES: Be very aware of all the different deadlines for each school. Some schools offer Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED). It is crucial that you understand the difference. Early Action is for those students who are not waiting on better grades or ACT / SAT scores. Their application is ready to submit, teacher recommendations have been completed and the guidance counselor has completed the necessary forms and has your transcript ready to go. For those students, apply Early Action and you’ll receive and admissions decision much more quickly than those who wait for the regular deadline to apply.
Early Decision is for those students who meet all of the above criteria and are also 100% committed to attending that particular school. Parents have signed off and are willing to pay “sticker price” if necessary. If you apply ED, you are telling that school that if you accept me, I guarantee that I’ll attend. You will have to submit your non-refundable deposit upon acceptance and also withdraw all other applications you may have made to other schools. At many schools, ED acceptance rates are higher so it may increase your chances of acceptance but you have to be absolutely positive you meet all of the above criteria before moving forward with an ED application.
Scholarship Deadlines: Research all scholarship opportunities at each of your colleges. What are the requirements? Is a separate scholarship app required or does the admissions application suffice? What are the deadlines to have all my material in order to be considered? Just like every college is different as far as their admissions application requirements, so are the scholarships. DO YOUR HOMEWORK and don’t miss out on a scholarship opportunity simply because you missed a deadline or just didn’t know about it.
4) Teacher Evaluations: Many schools ask that the student submit at least one recommendation from a teacher. While some will require you to ask a teacher from a specific subject, most do not. However, it’s probably a good idea to ask a teacher from a core subject. If you’re asked to submit two, ask teachers from two separate core subjects (History and Math, English and Science….) and make sure this teacher can speak to your character and work ethic along with your performance in his or her class.
I’m sure I’ve left out some points that I probably should have addressed. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. At The College Project, we help the students and parents stay on top of all the requirements and deadlines for each school. In can be somewhat daunting at times and it’s nice to have a professional you can call, text, or email with any questions you may have in between our regularly scheduled meetings.