August. Its hot. School is back. The common application is out. If you’re starting your senior year of high school chances are people are asking you where you want to be next year. If you’re a high school junior, you might be jumping into a daunting schedule.
And on top of all of this, college admissions are breathing down your neck.
Yikes! Lets take a step back and breathe.
I have been a college prep tutor for five years, and I can safely say college admissions are a stressful process if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you have a PLAN, however, or a trusted tutor/ counselor, it can actually be a (dare I say it) fun process. This is an opportunity to find a new home and learn more about yourself in the process. While that may seem daunting, I’m here with some guidance on how to make it better.
Organize your thoughts.
You might have a lot of ideas about what kind of school you want. You might be thinking about majors. If all of this is in your head or written in jumbled notes on your computer or in your backpack it might feel like 1/2 of the time you dedicate to working on college applications is just LOOKING for information.
How should you organize this process?
- Organize all of your bookmarks on your computer. I suggest a folder for EACH: college applications, individual college information pages, general college advice, and sat/act testing information
- Make a planner for ONLY college admissions. As a private tutor I made this planner and hundreds of people have used it since I listed it online. Put all the papers related to college admissions in a binder and keep it safe and sound!
Go through your tour with purpose
There is a lot to take in on your tour. Check out THIS POST I wrote on what to look out for on your college tour!
Essentially, try not to be distracted by the little things (fancy dorms, food, gear, etc.) and ask yourself if you could feel at home here. Also, talk to your tour guide honestly!! Tell them what you’re nervous or excited about and they can give you school specific feedback.
Cut down your list.
There is no reason you need to apply to 15 schools. I was guilty of this when I was applying… But after submitting ALL of the applications I realized I only wanted to go to maybe four of the schools I applied to.
Heres what I reccomend to my students going through applications:
2 safety schools. You KNOW you will get into these schools based off of research and advice of a counselor. Your scores, grades, activities, etc. are FAR ABOVE the standard admits for this school.
2 goal schools. You PROBABLY will get into these schools. They are somewhere in the middle of your list. Your scores, grades, activities, etc. are AT or ABOVE the standard admits for this school.
2 reach schools. You MIGHT NOT get into these schools. You’re giving these a shot but wont be devastated if they say no. Your scores, grades, activities, etc. are BELOW the standard admits for this school.
Apply Early Action.
WHAT? I thought we were staying calm?? Well actually I am here to tell you that an Early ACTION (not early decision) application can really put you in a good spot.
- It gets the jitters out. I recommend doing this for a safety school. It’s nice to know you have ONE application done.
- Typically admittance rates are higher for early action. It looks good that you’re applying early and getting all your ducks in a row. It also shows that you have an extra interest in this school beyond the typical applicant.
- You might get your decision back BEFORE you even finish your other applications. This happened to me when I was applying to undergrad.
- It puts you in the running for more financial aid. You will be on all of the lists for aid before the standard admitted class. Win win!!
Have one person edit your essays
First of all, if you’re looking for guidance on the personal statement, read this article I posted this year with all of my best tips!
Second, challenge yourself to edit your own essay. Read the essay out loud, and send it through a self editing software. My favorite is Hemingway Editor.
Once you have really challenged yourself to edit, then give it to someone you trust. Give at least two weeks heads up to your editor. AT LEAST!! Let that one editor know when you need it back and only send it to them.
A lot of people fall into the trap of asking too many people for their advice and in the process loose their voice. If you think 5 people need to help you on your essay, start over!
Ask for your letters of rec junior year
You heard right! Ask 3-4 people who you think know your character and personality if they would be comfortable writing your letter of recommendation. They probably will be! They might want a little more information, or a resume, and because you are asking them early you have time to give them what they need.
SO MANY high school students are embarrassed to ask, but I promise it is 100 times WORSE to have to ask when it is late in the game. Teachers, bosses, and coaches KNOW that this is something that will be asked of them, so don’t be embarrassed! Rip that bandaid and ask EARLY.
Finally, if you’re interested in speaking to a professional, shoot me an email! Heres a link to my tutoring page. I work over Skype and in the LA area.
Keep a calm head and good luck!! Lets get that dream school!