While some seniors are immersed in application essays, others still need to finalize their college list. Wherever you are in the process, you want to continue learning about colleges so that you can prepare your strongest applications.
Admissions officers will be offering local information sessions and visiting high schools throughout the fall. Check with your school’s college counseling center for a schedule of college visits. Prepare questions to ask about the college, ask for a business card and follow up with an email thanking the admissions officer for visiting. It’s also a good idea to mention something the representative told you about the college that resonated with you.
Many colleges have special programs for prospective freshmen during the fall, so if you haven’t visited the schools on your list, you might want to plan on seeing some of them in the next couple months. If you can sit in on a class or two, even spend the night in a dorm, you’ll know if it’s a place you can really see yourself. Visiting a college can also enhance your application, as you are demonstrating interest, and you’ll be knowledgeable enough to write a more compelling “Why are you applying to our school?” supplemental essay.
Some colleges have changed early application options this year. A number of schools have established earlier deadlines, which allows more time for admissions officers to review applications. Being able to notify students earlier can also help win over students who may invest emotionally in that college before hearing from other schools.
A number of schools have earlier deadlines for scholarships or honors programs. For example, University of Southern California has a January 15 application deadline, but if you want to be considered for scholarships or certain programs including performing arts, you need to apply by December 1. Some public universities have November 1 priority deadlines for scholarship or honors program consideration.
Check with each college on your list to make sure you have accurate information about application and financial aid deadlines.
If you plan to submit early applications, it’s especially important to get started on your essays so that you have time to complete several drafts. You need to build time into your schedule for weeks when you have too much schoolwork to even look at a college application.
If you are applying to Common App or Coalition App schools, or other colleges that require teacher recommendations, be sure to ask your teacher in the next few weeks, especially if you need the letter for a November 1 early application deadline.
A calendar with all of your deadlines will be extremely helpful. Include registration deadlines and test dates for any final SAT, ACT or Subject Tests. In addition to official application deadlines for each college, create your own deadline for each application at least a week or two before the real deadline.
You are more likely to make mistakes if you’re racing against the clock when proofreading an application. If that’s not enough to motivate you to finish your applications early, how about the fact that some schools require you to pay the application fee before you can submit the application? Since it can take a day or two to process your credit card payment, this is not something you want to be doing five minutes before midnight on the deadline date.
Most private colleges, and some public universities, will ask for a midyear report, which includes your fall semester grades. This will be the final piece of the application, and you want your grades to be as strong as possible.
You can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) beginning October 1, and you can learn about the financial aid process at www.finaid.org. If you plan to apply for scholarships not awarded directly by colleges, be sure to register with www.fastweb.com or another scholarship search engine.
Make a schedule for application tasks so that you know exactly what you need to do each week. This process will be much less stressful if you start now and pace yourself.