One: Review your list of colleges. The schools should be those you’re interested in, have programs with majors you are considering, and fit your needs, values, interests and learning/instructional style. Are you interested in a Four or Two-Year program? How about a technical, vocational or trade school option? Have you considered the military? The average number of applications most seniors submit is approximately 5 to 7 schools. Consider two schools that might be a reach or stretch, those you dreamed about attending all your life. Next, consider 2–3 that are possible, your testing, grades, and coursework meet the middle 50% of those admitted in the past. Then 2–3 schools where you are likely to be admitted (your statistics are in the top 25% of the previous admitted class). Check the range of test scores and grade point averages of previously admitted students to determine this set on the college’s website. Two: When are the deadlines? Are you applying early decision or early action? Check out what this means for you. Many applications may be due by November 1. Those applying early will hear by December. You should be competitive in this pool of applicants. Remember, they will probably not see your term one grades of senior year, test scores of standardized tests taken after the October sitting, or recommendations. Each college will have their specific expectations. Early Decision is for the serious student who will commit to that one school. You can only apply to one school Early Decision and if you gain entrance you will attend. Early Action does not mean you will commit to attend a school if you are accepted, it is an early notification format. In recent years, colleges have been taking an increasing number of students in the early action and early decision rounds—sometimes as high as 40 to 50 percent of the entering freshman class. This means that there are far fewer seats available during the regular admission round and many more applicants. Here are some things you can do now to be ready for those strategic fall application deadlines. You don’t want to miss the deadline – many are set for October 1 or 15, or as late as November 1 to December 1. Regular Decision allows you to know by March 30 at the latest while Rolling Decisions are made as each applicant’s file is complete. Review the directions on the application for specific requirements and application methods.
Three: Register for the SAT and/or the ACT. October is generally the last test date that will be scored in time for early action or early decision deadlines. Register for the ACT at www.act.org and the SAT at www.collegeboard.com. If your colleges require SAT Subject Tests and you have not taken them, you will also need to allow a test dates for those. To see which colleges do not require standardized testing, go to http://www.fairtest.org. If English is your second language, talk with your counselor about taking the TOEFL test — http://www.toeflgoanywhere.org/ Remember practice makes perfect so spend some times preparing for the test. Try http://www.number2.com for starters!
Four: Schedule visits to colleges. Can you see yourself living there? Do they have the programs you are interested in? Are you within the admissions statistics range? Talk these over with your parents.
Five: Visit with college admissions representatives. These are the individuals who may be reading your application for admissions. Attend a session at your school, a local information session, a college fair, or take a tour of the college in person or online.
Six: Focus in on completing your application essays. Before you know it, you will be involved in your classes and activities and the essay task could slip to the back of your priorities. Since the essays can be the tipping factor in the admissions process, take your time to write an essay that tells the school more about you beyond the numbers and grades. Answer the question, revise, proof and double check your essay. Watch your grammar and syntax. Your English teacher and guidance counselor would be happen to review it and share their opinion. The essay may be one of the most important documents you submit!
Seven: Ask your teachers and counselors to write letter of recommendations. Check the application directions to see what is required and follow this lead. If they do require two, the college is usually looking for two teachers who taught you during your junior or senior year in a core subject area such as math, English, science, history, or modern and classical languages. The teachers may want additional information from you such as your activities and leadership experience. Teachers and counselors will need a few weeks to write your letter. Your counselor will need time to coordinate additional pieces beyond your recommendation including your transcript and other supporting documents.
Eight: Will you be applying for financial aid and scholarships? Many scholarships have early deadlines. Some colleges may ask you to prepare the institution’s financial aid form or if you are applying to a private college, you may need to prepare the CSS Profile for an aid package. The CSS Profile is due when you file applications (or shortly after), unlike the FAFSA form (http://www.fafsa.gov) which isn’t due until February or March at most schools. For a list of colleges that require the CSS Profile, go to: https://profileonline.collegeboard.com/prf/index.jsp. Check each college or universities Net Price Calculator for more information.
Nine: Focus on your school work! Prepare for classes, improve your note-taking skills, build your reading comprehension abilities, and give yourself lead time when preparing for quizzes and tests. You will want to show the institutions to which you are applying that you are a great catch. Set up a schedule for studying, organize your notebooks, find a great place to study where you can stay focused, and limit your “texting” to friends. I’ve heard many seniors before you share, “If I only spent more time on my school work rather than on my iPhone or computer, I would’ve had great grades.”
Ten: Last tip, keep challenging yourself, stay involved, set goals the future, strive for balance, and avoid the senior slump! Good luck seniors — you are on your way!