This is basically an abbreviated version of pretty much everything I say throughout the year; hopefully, it's organized in a way you can find useful.
Junior year is where your college admissions journey starts for real. You now have quite a few items to tick off your to-do list, but don't freak out if you're already a spring semester junior — or even a rising senior -- (or even a fall semester senior for that matter if you’re reading this much later). You have plenty of time
to get all this done.
Please note that my views about this might be different than the advice you hear from other sources or even other students, counselors, or consultants. My philosophy is that it’s good to hear different thoughts and ideas, and then you can make decisions about what works best for you.
Here’s how I suggest you tackle this list. If you are new to admissions, no matter where you are in high school, start reading here from the beginning. Don’t panic if you haven’t done any of the stuff on the list. Most kids haven’t. I’m just providing a timeline for “an ideal world” situation.
Rising Junior Summer (Summer before Junior Year) ENJOY YOUR SUMMER:
This is super important. You need to take time to recharge your batteries. That’s part of being involved with yourself. Be sure to take some time completely off from school and college admissions stuff. ACTIVITIES:
I love what MIT Admissions Says: "Some students feel so much pressure to get into the “right” college that they want to make sure they do everything right—down to their extracurricular activities. Fortunately, the only right answer is to do what’s right for you—not what you think is right for us.
Choose your activities because they delight, intrigue, and challenge you, not because you think they’ll look impressive on your application. Go out of your way to find projects, activities, and experiences that stimulate your creativity and leadership, that connect you with peers and adults who bring out your best, and that please you so much that you don’t mind the work involved. Some students find room for many activities; others prefer to concentrate on just a few. Either way, the test for any extracurricular should be whether it makes you happy—whether it feels right for you.
College is not a costume party; you’re not supposed to come dressed as someone else. College is an intense, irreplaceable four-year opportunity to become more yourself than you’ve ever been. What you need to show us is that you’re ready to try.” GET INVOLVED WITH STUFF
GET A SUMMER JOB:
- Yourself (Exercise healthy habits, engage in personal hobbies and projects, READ real books, get a job, learn something new that’s good for your brains like guitar or Italian, practice mindfulness and meditation).
- Your family (Help with sibs or grandparents, grocery shopping, clean up around the house, or take care of dinner one night a week).
- Your community (Community service can be totally individual projects and/or organized group projects. Volunteer to play your instrument or play games at a retirement home, coach a kids’ team, make sandwiches at a food bank, or make comfort bags and drop off healthy snacks and water to the homeless).
Just an old-fashioned summer job. This will give you all sorts of skills you won’t gain by volunteering and also demonstrate leadership, diligence, a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. Make some smoothies or scoop ice cream or fold sweaters. It really doesn’t matter what it is. Being responsible to a boss and customers for a paid job requires different skills than an unpaid internship. COVID 19 UPDATE: Some ideas for what to do during C19 TESTING
START YOUR RESUME:
- PRACTICE AND PREP FOR THE PSAT: You take it in October, and it helps you qualify for National Merit if you score high enough.
- PRACTICE AND PREP FOR THE ACT and SAT: Take a couple of practice tests and see which one feels better to you and which one you score higher on. Then move forward with that one. Consider taking one in December of the junior year. Definitely take one in the early part of the spring semester. It’s nice to have testing completed before you start senior year.
- TAKE SAT SUBJECT TESTS: Especially if you are considering applying to highly selective schools. Take one or two in June or August that fit with classes you’ve just studied.
- COVID 19 UPDATE: Even though many colleges are moving to Test Optional for the next year or two, I encourage you to continue to prep for and take the tests if you can. If you can’t, then take it off the list.
If you haven’t already, make a list of all the activities you’ve been involved in since freshman year. Here’s a spreadsheet to keep your activities organized.
Keep in mind that basically anything you do outside of class time, homework, and test prep counts as an EC, so that includes old-fashioned summer or part-time jobs, home and family responsibilities, elderly and child care, personal projects and hobbies, and independent research, in addition to more traditional research, internships, and in-or-out-of-school clubs and sports. For your resume, create the following categories: Education, Extracurriculars, Work Experience, Community Service, Interests and Hobbies, Awards, Honors. EXPLORE THE WORLD OF ADMISSIONS:
Read some college admissions websites and blogs. Some of my favorites are Georgia Tech, MIT, Tulane, Harvard, UVA, Swarthmore, Vandy, William and Mary, and Tufts. They are open about the realities and anxieties of college admissions. RaiseMe
-- Check out this website. You list all the stuff you're doing and grades you're making and their over 300 partner colleges will give you micro-scholarships if you attend their school. It's free for you and seems like a great way also to let colleges know you're interested and to keep up with your activities and grades too.
Pretty much all of the summer stuff applies still. TAKE THE HARDEST COURSE LOAD YOU CAN:
Colleges say that your course rigor counts for more than your GPA and test scores. Remember they evaluate you in the context of your school. So don’t worry about classes that aren’t offered. I recommend that you take four years of:
- Science (including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics)
- Foreign Language (many highly selective colleges like to see four years of a foreign language during high school. I know you don’t want to. It’s also good for your brain)
- Math (ending in calculus if it’s offered -- or higher)
- Social Science (History, Gov, etc)
Check out the course requirements or suggestions on the webpages of some colleges that might interest you. GET TO KNOW YOUR TEACHERS:
Visit them at office hours. You will be asking them for teacher recommendations later. Speak up in class. Ask for help when you need it. KEEP UP YOUR GRADES:
I know you know this is the most important year for you as far as grades go. That said, an A- or B in a class isn’t going to kill your chances of going to college. In fact, there are hundreds of truly amazing colleges that are looking for B students. Just keep doing your work. Go to tutorials if you need tutorials. Meet with your teachers after class. Ask the smartest person in the class to tutor you if you need help. Watch Khan Academy and other Youtube videos if you’re struggling. Don’t wait and get far behind. Be proactive and start trying to bring up those grades now READ READ READ:
Reading will improve your test scores and your essay writing. Read real books, magazines, newspapers, and more real books. Read books that are required for school and books just for fun. I can suggest lots — just ask. KEEP PREPPING AND PRACTICING FOR THE ACT AND SAT:
Start your testing in the late fall or early spring of Junior Year. STAY INVOLVED:
Keep up with everything I listed for summer (involved with yourself, your family, your community). Also, get involved with your school. Join a club or two that interests you. Create a club if you don’t see one that interests you. Or simply do individual activities that add to your school environment. Sit with someone new at lunch once a week. Make an effort to say hello to two new people a week. Find a need and fill it. Or, as this Georgia Tech blog says,
find what makes you happy, and do it. CHECK IN WITH YOUR HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELOR:
See what they have to advise and how the process works at your school. Every school is slightly different.
Junior Spring BINGO:
Here’s a link to my Junior Spring/Rising Senior Checklist Bingo
. See if you can mark all the squares by the end of the summer :) LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION:
Ask two or three teachers who know you best to write your letters. I encourage you to ask junior year teachers who teach you in core academic subjects. I prefer one from a STEM subject and one from a humanities subject, but some colleges have certain expectations, so be sure to read college admissions websites about what they are looking for. Ask your teacher in person (if possible in a non-global pandemic year) or by email and then follow up either in person or by email. Be sure to include a basic info cheat sheet about you for them and a resume. Now’s the time to start thinking about which teachers you should approach for LORs.
LOR Cheat Sheet has your resume with your most important activities, awards, and honors on it, and then it also has your answers to the following questions:
- What was your favorite part of the class?
- What was your most memorable activity or project
- What part of the class did you find most difficult?
- What did you learn that you will carry with you after class and why?
- Be sure to write a thank you note to the teachers who say yes.
- You can find more info and links here.
Start visiting colleges if you can. Look around in your city or town. Visit large schools and small schools. It doesn’t matter if it’s a college you think you might consider or not. Just go to start thinking about what feels right to you. Hang out on campus. Then, if you can go on college visits to schools you might find interesting, do so.
COVID 19 UPDATE: While we are practicing social distancing, colleges might not be open to your being on campus. Most colleges have really upped their game when it comes to virtual tours, online info sessions, and their social media presence, so be sure to check out all the ways they are bringing their college to you on their websites. I have tried to compile all the virtual tours I’ve discovered and other important info -- with links to colleges’ admissions pages and maps on CollegeVizzy. You can also find some checklist items of ways to approach your virtual tours and keep up with your thoughts about what you find while virtual visiting there. You can find more info and links here. COLLEGE LIST:
- Be sure at this point to sign in and go on the tour and info session, but also wander around.
- Sit on a bench and eavesdrop on conversations. Do you like what you hear?
- Talk to students. Ask them what they’d like to change about their school. Or what they do on a Wednesday night. Don’t be shy. They remember what it was like to be a prospective student and, even if they are annoyed by your questions, who cares? They don’t know you and won’t remember you. Move on and find a kinder person.
- Check out the dining hall and the gym.
- Look for the area near campus where kids hang out if there is one. Lots of kids try to go on spring break trips to visit colleges if it’s affordable.
- If you can’t afford to visit out of your area, at the very least check out the colleges near you to get a feel for the kind of vibe that works for you.
Now’s the time to start coming up with your preliminary lists. If you can visit colleges, that’s the best way to learn about them, but also you can also learn a lot on the internet, social media, and by reading books.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER: Your SureFire Safety School
- Reddit: A2C, colleges’ subreddits, and reverse chance mes.
- Colleges’ websites. Sign up to receive info and get on their mailing lists.
- Common Data Set. Google “college name” and “common data set”
- Colleges’ social media accounts. They are putting tons of info out there on Instagram, twitter, facebook, and snapchat. Clean up your account and use your real name and then you get brownie points for interest with those who consider demonstrated interest -- and it’s also super helpful to know more as you write your Why College essays!
- Virtual tours like CampusReel, YouVisit, YOUniversityTV, and more. You can find these tours and more linked on College Vizzy for over 500 colleges.
- Colleges’ newspapers and news feeds
- “Colleges that Change Lives” by Loren Pope (book and ctcl website)
- “College Match” by Steve Antonoff
- “The Best 300 Something Colleges” by Princeton Review
- “The FISKE Guide” by Edward Fiske
- “Insider’s Guide to Colleges” by Yale Daily News Staff
- “Where You Go is not Who You’ll Be” by Frank Bruni
- PSA for LGBTQ+ kids: be sure to check out Campus Pride Index for updated info about LGBTQ+ friendly campuses.
-- Make sure you have at least one Sure-Fire Safety School and a selection of other colleges with a variety of levels of selectivity. A sure-fire safety school is a school where your stats, scores, and grades qualify you for automatic or direct admissions AND you would like to go there, AND they are a financial safety. Any school that does holistic admissions is not a sure-fire safety until you have already been admitted. I like to see kids apply to a few schools with rolling admissions early on, so they can have that safety out of the way. You must LOVE your safety. Research it and imagine yourself there. COLLEGE FIT:
Start thinking about what you want in a college and compile a big old list. Having a ton of schools on this initial list is ok. As you explore yourself and the colleges more as you go through the admissions journey, you will naturally begin to filter some of the schools out. This includes thinking about and potentially creating a spreadsheet for:
ADMISSIONSMOM'S COLLEGE BOOK CLUB:
- Financial Needs: Will you need full financial aid? Will you qualify for any aid? Do you need full merit aid? These are crucial considerations. You and your parents need to spend some time thinking about this and going through net price calculators on various college websites. If you can’t afford the price of a school, it’s not a good fit.
- Geography: What areas of the country appeal to you? Open your mind here, too. I can’t tell you how many kids say no to the Deep South or Midwest without really thinking about it, and in doing so, deprive themselves of some excellent options and merit aid. Also, do you want urban? Do you want rural? Do you want an enclosed campus or one that’s incorporated into the cityscape? Do you want beaches? Mountains? Corn fields? Do you want to get out of your comfort zone here or stay with the familiar?
- Weather: Also important. If you really, really hate the cold, then moving to Boston or Chicago or Maine might not appeal to you. If you have to have four seasons, then the Midwest or the northeast might have good options.
- School Culture and Vibe: Are you looking for that stereotypical American big college experience with the big game on the weekends? Or are you looking for the quirky school? Or something that has it all?
- School Size: Do you want a big ole state school with loads of options? Or are you looking for something smaller or even mid-sized? Do you want discussion-based classes where you can develop strong relationships with your professors or are do you want to be in big lectures where you can take notes or go to sleep?
- Potential Major: If you don’t have one, don’t worry. You have plenty of time to figure that out, and it actually frees you up a bit. If you do think you know, research some schools that might be strong in your major. Maybe touch base with a professor or two.
- Your Stats: Where do your grades and test scores fit in? Are they right there in the middle? I like my students to be well above the 50% for most of the colleges they are applying to. This requires putting a lot of thought into what you want out of your experience and about who you are and who you want to be. It doesn’t require pulling out U.S. News & World Report and listing the top twenty schools.
(I don’t actually have a book club, but I wish I did. These are just a list of books you should read.) Here are a few of the books I recommend: The Fiske Guide
, Colleges that Change Lives
, and Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be
, Hey AdmissionsMom: Real Talk from Reddit
- (this is link to the pdf for free, but you can also buy it at your fave booksellers). See my list later in this post for a full list. COLLEGE RESEARCH SPREADSHEET:
Include info like test score averages, requirements, distance from home, school size, programs that might interest you, climate, and anything else you feel might be important. Here’s the one I use
(Be sure to change the title with your name so it doesn’t get mixed up with others who use it.) NO COLLEGE-TALK ZONE OR TIME:
Make a No College-Talk Zone or Time in your house. In my house, our kitchen table was a NO COLLEGE-TALK ZONE. That’s hard to do when you’ve got a mom who’s pretty obsessed with college admissions, but we worked at it. For other families I know, it might be all day on Sundays. This will help you and your parents keep your sanity during the next year. Otherwise, your house and family will be consumed with talking about college admissions from dawn to dusk in every room in your home for the next year. That’s not healthy for any of you. NET PRICE CALCULATORS:
Sit down with your parents and do the net price calculators for a few colleges on your list. Begin those tough financial conversations. Be sure to use the one provided on the college page itself. You can usually find it pretty easily by googling: “College Name Net Price Calculator). NEW COLLEGE EMAIL ADDRESS:
Make a new college-only email address to use for college applications and communications. Make it appropriate! I recommend this because then all your info from colleges won’t get mixed up in your other emails. I encourage you to allow your parents to have access to it if you feel comfortable with it. Be sure to check your junk, trash, and spam inboxes, so you don't miss important info! CHECK IN WITH YOUR HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELOR:
They have a lot of knowledge and can guide you along the way. And they will be writing about you. If you haven’t stopped by to meet them yet, now’s the time. Keep in mind that every high school might have their own processes you need to follow. COLLEGE INFO SESSIONS:
If a college comes to your town or close to your town or school, go listen. Make sure you sign up and sign in. COLLEGE FAIRS:
Go to them! Talk. Ask questions. Learn. COVID 19 UPDATE: Go to virtual tours, info sessions, and college fairs. Be sure you’ve signed up for “more info” on the college’s websites with your new college email address, so they’ll send you updated info about what they are creating and putting out there. WRITE:
I know you hear so much about the Terrifying College Essay…. But guess what? It’s not! Even the timidest of writers begin to like writing the college essay and experiencing the soul searching. My advice is a little different than most college essay coaches and counselors in that I don’t think you should start working on your essays too early. I DO think you should practice writing. Here are my tips for getting ready to write killer college essays.
- Write Every Day. Even if it’s just a sentence or two.
- Read and listen to essays on This I Believe. These aren’t college essays, but there are hundreds of amazing personal essays about all sorts of subjects. I like that they aren't college essays.
- Check out College Essay Guy. His website is brimming with tips, hints, and suggestions about writing college essays.
- Practice just writing in your voice--like you’re writing to us here on reddit. Admissions counselors want to get to know you in your essays, not be impressed by you.
- Try to avoid reading college essays or “essays that got in.” There is no set formula or way to write these essays, and often when you read those, you can get trapped in the “this is what a personal essay should look like” mindset. It’s not pretty, and it causes great amounts of stress and, quite frankly, a lot of repetitive, boring essays for the reader. I will be writing a lot more about what I feel like you need to do for strong personal essays and supplements. I’ll be happy to share my essay resources with you. Email me at [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected]).
Seriously, reading is the best way to write well, write deeply, have good interviews, and be prepared to do your standardized testing. You should make yourself read every night or day. Even for just five minutes. Reading good fiction and also self-help books will help you learn to discover your voice. Here’s a list of fantastic books to read. Some are just for fun, and others help with stress, but all of these writers have a strong voice in their writing, and you feel the person on the other side of the page. That’s an important skill to think about as you prepare to write your personal essays.
TAME THE ADMISSIONS STRESS MONSTER:
- The Mindful Twenty Something by Holly Rogers
- 10% Happier by Dan Harris
- Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren
- The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha
- You are a Badass by Jenn Sincero
- The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
- Brave Enough, Wild, and Tiny Beautiful Things -- all by Cheryl Strayed
- F\ck That - An Honest Meditation* by Jason Headley
- Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
- Anything by Vonnegut, Faulkner, Steinbeck, or Hemingway
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews ( I like his voice.)
Dealing with your stress as you go through this next year is key. There will be times you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, and sad. So, how do you deal with it? What do you do -- besides post and comment on a2c??? :))
- Be involved. And be involved for you and what you want and like to do, not just to create a list for your apps. The kids who are the most disappointed and stressed out are the ones who feel like they’ve sacrificed their lives for their college apps.
- Practice gratitude 🙏. Make a daily list of 3 things you're thankful for. Even during all your stress, what is good? Are you happy for air conditioning or heating? Are you grateful for ice cream? Or for that amazing teacher who sparked something in you. There’s nothing too small here.
- Be like Elsa and Let. It. Go. If Disney Cartoons aren’t your style, maybe this story about monkeys and coconuts will resonate. Hunters attach a coconut to a tree, cut a hole in it, and place a banana inside. A monkey comes along and puts his hand through the hole and grabs the banana. The unfortunate thing is the hole is too small for his fist to get back through, so he is stuck sitting by that tree holding on to the banana. To be free, all he has to do is let go of the damn banana.
- LEAN IN. Lean into your fear, frustration, anxiety, and stress. Right now this is what it is, so tell it to come on in. Sometimes, just saying that makes it ok. It’s ok to be stressed and worried. It’s normal. Don’t try to run away or suppress it. Instead, face it and embrace it. If something is making you afraid, that can often be an indicator that you’re doing the right thing! I know this drives some of you up the wall bat-shit crazy when we say it, but remember this experience is so much about the journey and not the outcome. And you will learn more about yourself from any perceived “failures” or disappointments than acceptances to a particular school.
- Mindful Meditation. Take three minutes every day and focus on your breathing. That’s all — no need to clear your brain. Just focus on your breath. Be mindful of what’s happening to you. Is your mind wandering? Cool! That means you’ve been successful with your mindful meditation because you discovered that your mind had wandered away from focusing on your breathing. This is such a simple practice, and so many people get caught up in the “I could never clear my brain. Or I can’t relax” part, but that’s not what it’s about. You don’t have to clear your brain or relax. There are no rules. Just focus on your breathing for three minutes. It’s that simple.
- Equanimity and Stillness. This is my favorite stillness meditation. Sit quietly, take some breaths and say to yourself: I am who I am, This is what it is, May I accept things as they are, May I trust in the unfolding.
- Move. Exercise. Go outside. Get Fresh Air. Eat Healthy Food
If you are a low-income applicant, I want you to be aware of and explore these amazing programs and possible options, if you’re not already:
Juniors, you are in for the journey of your lives. By this time next year, you will know far more about yourself than you ever thought possible. Keep in mind that failure, disappointment, frustration, and feelings of being overwhelmed are all part of this journey -- just as much or maybe even more so as the excitement, anticipation, and dreaming. Every stumble, and bump in the road will make you stronger.
I'm looking forward to watching your transformations! This is a prime opportunity for you to take advantage of digging in and getting to know who you are.
Rising Senior Summer
(Please be sure to read the suggestions for Rising Junior Summer.) This is an important summer for you, but there is no magical formula of what you need to or have to do to get into any colleges-- even the most highly selective ones. Sure, you can research in a lab (you get those positions by emailing any and every professor you know or who you can find doing research you’re interested in). Or you can get an internship (you get those the same way as research). Or you can do a program somewhere on a campus or around the world. Those are all great ways to spend your summer. You can also do independent projects - and I think you should (see my rising Junior Summer section for suggestions). But, don’t forget the good old fashioned summer job. You can actually stand out from the applicant crowd these days by making a smoothie, flipping a burger, or scooping ice cream. These kinds of jobs allow you to learn about taking care of others and listening to what the customer wants, learn about organizing your thoughts and activities, learn to work with others and gain some experiences you might never have the chance to gain again. Here’s what William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Harvard Admissions, has said about summer: “Bring summer back... Activities in which one can develop at one’s own pace can be much more pleasant and helpful. An old-fashioned summer job that provides a contrast to the school year or allows students to meet others of differing backgrounds, ages, and life experiences is often invaluable in providing psychological downtime and a window on future possibilities. Students need ample free time to reflect, to recreate (i.e., to “re-create” themselves without the driving pressure to achieve as an influence), and to gather strength for the school year ahead.” COVID 19 UPDATE: Some ideas for what to do during C19 FINISH TESTING:
SAT, ACT, and SUBJECT TESTS (if possible) BE INVOLVED:
(see above in Rising Junior summer) RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES:
Take time to care for your mental health and your body. Learn more about meditation, mindfulness, or yoga. Get outside and walk or run. Listen to music. Have dance parties in your room. Breathe. WRITE:
“Write like a motherf*cker,” as one of my favorite writers, Cheryl Strayed says. Write about yourself. Just write. Everyday. Get used to your voice. See my WRITE from Junior Spring. Here’s a list of questions to get you going
. This will help you get that Personal Statement ready to go by October 1. Use this super cool website that some of the A2C kiddoes have taught me about-- themostdangerouswritingapp.com
. Start asking yourself some hard and kinda silly questions. You can practice answering these in themostdangerouswritingapp.com! I’ve had students write stunning essays just by answering these questions:
THINK ABOUT AND PRACTICE WRITING THE PERSONAL ESSAY:
- What do you think about when you wake up in the morning?
- What do you worry about?
- What’s your secret sauce?
- What’s your superpower?
- What’s the last thing you think about before you go to sleep?
- Who are your role models and why?
- What’s your favorite comfort food?
- When you’re in your room at night, what do you look at?
- What makes you smile?
Remember — no matter which prompt you choose or which kind of vehicle or conceit you use to relay your message — the topic is YOU. Focus on teaching the admissions officers about who you are. Don’t worry about standing out; worry about sticking with the reader. You do that by creating connections and bonds. Those are created by opening yourself up and letting them inside. They want to know what you think about, what you believe, and what you value. They don’t need to hear a whole lot more about what you’ve already told them in other areas of your application. I'll be happy to share all my essay resources with you, including the essay chapter from my new book, "Hey AdmissionsMom: Real Talk from Reddit,” if you email me at [[email protected]
). MAKE A COMMON APP and COALITION ACCOUNT:
Start filling out the details like activities, family info, and educational background. Those roll over when they update the website in August. DO NOT fill out college specific info. It could be lost. UPDATE YOUR RESUME:
Or create it if you haven’t done so yet. See info and links to activity spreadsheet above in Rising Junior Summer or in the JUNIOR BINGO VISIT COLLEGES if you can:
See information about College Visits and Virtual Visits in Junior Spring section. START YOUR COLLEGE LIST:
Start narrowing down your list — including a wide range of selectivities. Make sure you have at least one SFSS (SureFire Safety School). What is a SureFire Safety School you ask? As a reminder, a SureFire Safety School is often your most important school. It’s one:
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH COLLEGES: Sign up to "request info" from every college you’re interested in
- Where you have direct/auto/guaranteed admissions based on your stats
- OR you’ve already been admitted via ED, EA or Rolling
- AND you can see yourself being happy there
- AND it works financially for you and your family.
— even if you’re already getting info from them because they bought it from a testing company. Also, I recommend that you follow the admissions offices on Instagram and Twitter for the colleges on your list or potential list. They often put out a lot of helpful information for what's happening in their offices. I suggest following Common App, too. Also, it’s ok to occasionally contact your regional college admissions officers or the general admissions office with questions.
All of the above....plus:
Finish up any college visits (or virtual visits) especially for EARLY DECISION POSSIBILITIES. Here’s a Senior Fall Checklist to help you keep you organized. COLLEGE LIST:
Begin to narrow your college list. Make sure you have one or two SureFire Safeties (see above) that you love and that will be good financial fits, as well as a collection of matches, reaches, and lotteries (if that’s your thing). COLLEGE APPLICATION SPREADSHEET:
Make a spreadsheet for all your colleges. Add application deadlines. Supplemental Essay topics — and look for overlap. Testing info. Contact info for your regional officer. Here’s
a link to the spreadsheets I use for research and organization. FILLING OUT APPLICATIONS:
Start with the details if you didn't do it in the summer. Fill out activities, family history, etc. EARLY ACTION:
Try to apply to as many schools by Early Action as are available and that you can by following guidelines. Make a calendar of deadlines and essay requirements and work through them one by one. FAFSA AND CSS:
Make accounts and start gathering and filling out information. FINANCIAL AID:
Reach out to the financial aid offices of schools on your list and establish a relationship with them. Do the net price calculators on the college websites with your parents. LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION:
Check back in with your recommenders. Send them a reminder email and stop by if you can. Be sure to give them a big thank you! (Also give them a resume and "cheat sheet" if you haven't yet.) YOUR HIGH SCHOOL GUIDANCE COUNSELOR:
Check in with your guidance counselor or college counselor if you aren't in regular contact. They have a lot of knowledge and can guide you along the way. And they will be writing about you. If you haven’t stopped by to meet them yet, now’s the time. Keep in mind that every high school might have their own processes you need to follow. SAT/ACT/SUBJECT TESTS:
Finish up any testing you have left to do. Be sure to check colleges’ websites for their last accepted testing dates. COVID 19 UPDATE: Colleges are aware of the challenges for this year, so don’t let the testing situation stress you out. If you can test, do. If you can’t, many colleges are going test optional for the next year or two and they should all be understanding if you need to write about why you couldn’t test in the Additional Info. SUBMIT TEST SCORES:
Submit your test scores in plenty of time for deadlines to the schools who don't allow self-report. Be sure to check the colleges’ admissions websites to find when they need to be submitted and whether they allow self-reporting or not. ESSAYS:
Start writing your essays for real now. Focus first on your Personal Statement. Then categorize your supplemental essays by due dates. How many “Why College” Essays
do you have? When's the first one due? Then, organize the Why Major Essays and the Extracurricular Essays. Think about whether you want/need to write an Additional Info essay. Try to get the Personal Statement done by October 1. Use an app organizer for this. See link to mine above. INTERVIEWS:
Be sure to check your email (and voicemail and trash and spam folders for interview invitations). Every school has a different method for signing up, so read their websites carefully. For some, you are automatically signed up when you apply. Others require you to sign up yourself or to apply by a certain deadline. In most cases, they are optional and sometimes you might not be given the opportunity. I do suggest that you do them though — even if they’re optional and you’re nervous. Lean into your fear, admit it to them if you want, tuck in your button shirt, comb your hair and wash your face, and go. LOCI:
If you are deferred Early Decision, be sure to write a LOCI (Letter of Continued Interest) if you are still interested in attending that college.
Senior Spring FINISH UP APPLICATIONS:
Add any schools to your list that you need. There are plenty of colleges still accepting applications throughout the spring (and summer). I usually post a list throughout the spring on A2C. SUREFIRE SAFETY SCHOOL:
Make sure you have a SureFire Safety School. If you don't have one yet, look for good fits for you that are still accepting apps. Read above to see what that is if you don’t yet. KEEP THOSE GRADES UP:
Being rescinded for grade drops is a very real thing. Don’t panic about it, but you don’t want your average to drop more than 2 letter grades or so, you don’t want to make any Ds, and try to limit your Cs. TAKE TIME TO CARE FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH AND YOUR BODY:
Learn more about meditation, mindfulness, or yoga. Get outside and walk or run. Listen to music. Have dance parties in your room. Waiting for those acceptances can be brutal. Breathe. Acknowledge that once those little baby applications have flown away from your computer, you no longer have control. (see all my suggestions above for Taming the Admissions Stress Monster) EMOTIONAL PLANNING:
Plan for the worst, but hope for the best. Recognize that many colleges you might be interested in are extremely selective, and even if they're not, they might be holistic. Don't get too bonded to any college except for your SureFire Safety. Keep in mind that there are far too many amazing yous to fit into the tiny teacup of colleges you’re all trying to squeeze yourselves into. GRATITUDE:
Think about what you are grateful for. What are the good things in your life? Try to make a mental list every day. Be sure to write thank you notes to all those who have helped you along the way: counselors, teachers, parents, admissions officers, and interviewers to name a few. ENJOY THESE LAST FEW MONTHS OF HIGH SCHOOL:
Connect with friends and family. WAITLISTED?:
Write a LOCI (see sources on A2C)
- Junior year is when the college admissions prep really kicks in, and you got this.
- Follow this guide while adapting it to suit your own needs
- Check with your high school counselor.
- Be involved. Figure out what makes you happy and interested, and do it.