Listen up college-bound students—especially you high school juniors, the deadline for college applications may seem like a million years away, but if you’re planning on a Fall admission, you’re down to nine months or less…
(most deadlines fall between December and January, and some can be as early as October). Whether you’ve got your heart set on your dad’s alma mater or a list of 10 dream schools, just the thought of completing all your paperwork and writing multiple essays—can be a bit overwhelming. The sooner you start getting your college applications together, the better. Here are a few tips to get those applications polished and in the mail ahead of schedule:
Ask your teachers for references now.
Your favorite English teacher is probably popular with all your friends, too, so don’t delay in lining up your references. In the fall, teachers will be bombarded with references, so get your request in now to ensure they focus their thoughts on your reference letter.
Pare down your list.
While you might be tempted to apply to a dozen schools just to be safe, in reality it’s better to narrow your list down to five or six. You will have a better college experience if you focus your time, money and energy on the schools that fit you best. Schedule some college visits over the next few months to get a feel for the campus, student life and location. Check the list of majors on each school’s website to make sure it offers the ones you may want to pursue. (You wouldn’t want to get halfway through only to discover your school doesn’t offer engineering or journalism.) And talk to anyone and everyone you can find who attended the schools on your list. When you get down to making your final selections, include a mix of schools that are “just above your league” as well as ones whose qualifications you meet or beat.
Plan your essay.
Your essay matters big time, and the more time you can spend honing the perfect piece, the more likely the admissions officers are to take notice. Get started early by taking some painless baby steps—think about how you want to present yourself, and jot down notes about points you want to make as they come to you. That way, by the time you sit down to start writing, you won’t be starting from scratch. Plan to complete your first draft at least a month before the application is due, so you can get some feedback from your parents, teachers, or even an older sibling. If you don’t know how to start, you can always talk to one of our tutors.
Bulk up your resume.
You may know where you want to go to school, but do you know what type of student your dream college admits? In addition to reviewing grades and test scores, admissions counselors will look at your extracurricular activities to get a sense of who you are as an individual. Ask your guidance counselor, or a professional admissions consultant to review your resume and help you identify any gaps you may have. If your resume is a bit short, you still have time to add to it, whether it’s by joining an after-school club, signing up for a French class or volunteering at a local charity on weekends.
Choosing a college is the first of many life shaping choices you will make as young adult. Do your research, check your pocketbook and follow your heart.