the shrink ‘rap: issue 24
In this issue:
Organizing Your College Application Process –
by Johanna Baum from ObjectiveInSight College & Career Counseling
Applying to college is an exciting time for students and their families, but if you’re not organized, it can become incredibly stressful and overwhelming for everyone. Below are some helpful strategies to keep you calm and on track throughout the process.
Meet with your school counselor and/or college advisor to go over the process.
Ideally, this meeting should take place in the winter or early spring of your junior year. Make sure you have access to Naviance (or whatever college and career planning tool your high school uses) and find out your high school’s requirements and deadlines for requesting transcripts and recommendations. Ask for a copy of your transcript and solicit suggestions on appropriate schools to begin building a list.
Create a spreadsheet to organize your school research and application process.
Build your own, or use an online tool like College App Wizard. Include each school’s admissions data (average GPA and SAT/ACT scores, as well as acceptance rate) so that you can assess your likelihood of admission. Track admissions requirements and deadlines, early and regular, for each school. Note that financial aid deadlines may not be the same as application deadlines.
Plan your testing strategy.
If you’re not sure whether to take the SAT or ACT, schedule both in January/February of junior year. Registration deadlines are approximately a month before the test date. Review your scores to determine which test you will use for admissions. You’ll still have time to retake it once or twice more before your application is submitted. Take SAT Subject Tests, if your schools require them, in June of junior year, when you’ve just finished the courses that prepare you for the tests.
Schedule school visits.
Make sure to officially register with admissions. Some schools keep track of visits as part of the admissions process. Students should jot down some notes after seeing each school to remember the specifics. They will help in the decision making process as well as with writing the “Why Us” essay, which many schools require. Register on the websites of any schools you would like information about.
Ask for recommendations.
The best time to ask is between spring break and summer break of junior year. If you need to ask someone in the fall of senior year, do it as soon as possible once school starts because some teachers limit the number of recommendations they are willing to write each year. Some recommenders will ask you to complete a questionnaire or “brag sheet”. Prepare packets for each recommender, with your completed questionnaire/brag sheet, activity list/resume, school list, and a letter thanking them for their work.
Transfer all application related deadlines into your datebook or smartphone calendar.
Set deadlines with reminders for each stage of the application process, including test dates, college visits, interviews, financial aid and application deadlines, the date by which you will provide all necessary materials to your recommenders, and deadlines for essay writing (both drafts and final versions).
Set up a physical folder and an electronic one (on Google Drive or Dropbox) for each college.
Keep a master contact list in each folder that includes the names and contact information of school officials so that you have them handy. Keep all materials and essay drafts in the correct folder. Save all of your college application usernames and passwords in one place for easy reference.
Finally, check your email regularly so you don’t miss any important updates from your high school or colleges. Good luck!
Johanna Baum is an independent college and career counselor who helps students put their best foot forward throughout the college application process. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ObjectiveInSight.
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