Start early, start early, start early. If I had to offer advice on the admissions process it would be to start earlier than you think. Sophomore and juniors really should be starting now. Seniors should have applications well under way. Here are a few tips to make the process go more smoothly no matter where you are in the process.
Get Organized–start digital folder where you will store all materials. What should you include in this folder? Anything you may need for college applications including test scores, awards, copy of your transcript, copies of confirmation pages from applications and scholarships as well as things you will create like activity lists, resumes and essays.
Create a college application worthy email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). This will help keep clutter out of your personal inbox. Make sure both you and your parents can check this. Create folders for particular colleges, scholarship applications, and materials as you move through the process so you can easily find it in your drive and on your email. Use this email when you sign up for college mailing lists, collegeboard tests or other college items. Do not use your high school email on applications. Your email will be used through enrollment and your high school may close it over the summer locking you out of messages.
Know your application steps–Create a spreadsheet with the schools you are considering. Look up their application deadlines, type of application they require (common app, their own, coalition, etc), are they test optional, do they require the CSS profile in addition to FAFSA for financial aid, essays, letters of recommendation (how many and from who). Note if you visited and thoughts on your visit (many schools have an essay about why you are applying to that school so you want to remember details of what you liked). As you gather materials keep the spreadsheet updated. If you are a senior and can open the application, do so. Then you can see the essays and questions asked to start drafting your responses.
Talk to your school counselor early (spring of junior year or early in fall) so you understand the process to request recommendation letters from teachers, from counselors, and send transcripts. Some schools use google forms, some use Naviance or Scoir, some just let you email the counselor, others have a software program for transcripts. If you wait until the last minute, counselors and teachers are not going to be able to submit things by the deadline which you need it.
Document your accomplishments–Start a list of activities, honors, work experience and community service. Add to it regularly as you do something new. List where you did it, how many hours a week, how many weeks a year and a small description. You will need this for your applications. Consider creating a resume and keep it updated.
Join school mailing lists–If you really like a school, join their mailing list and check the emails and letters they send you. Attend their events (virtually if they are far away). Show you are interested as it is measured by some schools. Application fees are expensive–up to $80 at some schools. Many schools send fee waivers or application coupon codes to those on their mailing list or give them at events.
Read the school website –The admissions website will give you all the details you need to apply. They also can help you better understand the school’s curriculum, get to know faculty and discover student organization and study abroad opportunities. You will want to have this information handy for when you write your essays.
If you are self directing and task oriented, create a plan for creating applications and stick to those deadlines. An independent college counselor can help you understand the timeline, tasks involved and keep you on track. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Coffman Consulting. We enjoy helping simplify the admissions process.