While high school seniors are busily engaged with the college admissions process, juniors may feel they have all the time in the world. Truth is, NOW is the time to start the process of college admissions planning. Beginning now will go far in alleviating undue stress during senior year. Why is it so important to begin nearly one year ahead of time?
Generating a list of best-match colleges takes time as a student’s career goals and potential college major(s) are identified and financial, geographical, school size, student population, selectivity(based on GPA, standardized test scores, extracurricular participation, etc.) and other factors are taken into consideration. Ideally, a student will be able to identify two or three favorite institutions which promise a good chance of acceptance. They should also identify two “safety” schools and possibly two“reach” schools. The creation of this all-important list requires thorough research about each institution and a realistic assessment of a student’s chances of admission.
Once a best-match list is created, a timeline should be crafted which identifies deadlines for standardized testing,interviews, teacher recommendations, the submission of the Common Application and its required essay, and any Supplemental essays for individual colleges/universities. Decisions at this time should also be made regarding which, if any, colleges will be applied to Early Decision I, Early Decision II, Early Action, and Regular Admissions as these will affect the deadlines in the time line. Colleges differ regarding admissions deadlines, standardized test score requirements, interview availability, Common Application use, as well as desire for submission of an Arts or Athletic Supplement.
Because most competitive colleges will require a Supplemental essay which is unique to their particular institution, the best-match list is critical in identifying which essays will need to be written. (Common Application essays as well as Supplemental essay questions are made available on-line during the summer.) Sometimes, upwards of 5 or more essays, in addition to the Common Application essay, will need to be written. Obviously, this takes time--and thought. Waiting until senior year to begin these essays provides precious little time to create well-developed written work. Colleges value the essay as a way to get to know the student beyond his/her grades, standardized test scores, extracurricular involvement, etc., so the importance of these cannot be overstated!
Many colleges have specific requirements regarding submission of SAT II test scores. SAT II tests, formerly known as Achievement tests, illustrate competency in a particular subject area. There are currently 20 SAT II tests available. Many competitive colleges require SAT II tests in Math, Science, English, and any additional subjects for which a student may demonstrate high proficiency. Knowing which colleges require these is necessary when creating a time line.
College interviews are often made available to high school applicants. Some interviews are strongly recommended and evaluative, some non-evaluative, some suggested, and some not made available. If a college/university makes interviews available and that particular institution is high on a student’s best-match list, he/she should schedule and participate in the interview if at all possible. Having a head start and being well-organized can only help in preventing a last-minute, rushed affair.
Ample time to adequately explore best-match possibilities, create thoughtful, impactful college essays, fully explore financial aid/scholarship opportunities, schedule interviews, and put one’s absolute best foot forward when applying to college is critical to increasing a student's chances of admission! Teenagers spend a lifetime studying, test-taking and being shuttled to a variety of extracurricular activities in the hopes of developing the best possible college acceptance resume. Too often, many drop the ball when it comes to college admissions believing that their GPA, test scores, and achievements will speak for themselves. Putting all of the pieces together in a compelling,clear, and error-free fashion can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. Why not get a head start and avoid undue stress during college applications season?