Planning for Successful College Applications
Most students have tons of questions when preparing for college admissions, the most common one being – when should I start preparing for college admissions, and what all should I know? The zeal to excel in every little thing comes with a lot of pressure. This peer pressure leads to much stress and may make you start early or sometimes mismanage the whole process. Consequently, you may end up feeling frustrated and thereby loose out on the more important things involved.
While it is okay to be anxious about the admission process, you should understand that following incorrect steps can lead to a complete failure. Thus, it's always recommended to keep your cool and follow the necessary steps to the best of your abilities.
Following these pointers carefully will remove all the uncertainty from the admission process and help you create a proper schedule for your college admission.
Let’s get started.
The real admission process begins in junior year (11th grade). Here you might have a few questions and confusion over specific topics. But by following the below-mentioned steps, you can clear your checklist of all required documents and processes.
Rising Junior (summer)
If you are entering into Junior Year, you should take it as a stepping stone for your future as a Rising Junior. Get ready for all the work and tasks to do, as indicated below.
1. Invest in yourself
The most important part of your life is you. Invest in yourself by:
- Reading – This can structure your thinking and form your character.Initially go for books from various genres, and then you can decide which of them can help you or you like most. You can read newspapers and magazines of interest. The main motto over here is to enrich your mind through more and more reading.
- Maintaining Good Health – Being healthy is an essential part of anyone's life. You should have excellent and timely eating habits. Apart from that, you should exercise daily at fixed times.
- Developing Hobbies – You should develop a hobby and follow it with passion. If possible, you can create a project out of this hobby.
- Meditation – Meditation can bring peace of mind. You may develop different meditation practices like concentrating on a small light source or listening to the voice of birds or music etc. Another way can be to practice yoga.
- Spending Time with family – Family is an integral part of one's life; each member is a pillar supporting you through thick and thin. You could help your siblings, sit and talk with your parents regularly, help them in grocery shopping, help them clean the house, or take care of cooking a meal.
- Community work – You are a part of the community, so contributing your bit is good for you and the community. You can take up any community service, either individually or as a group, based on your interests. You can feed the homeless, or cook for a food bank. You could help coach the kids of your neighbourhood in sports or studies. You can also plan to play an instrument for the elderly in retirement homes. This community service will help you grow as a human.
- Entertainment – You should also rejuvenate your mind by any form of positive entertainment you like. Keep your mind clear, and don't burden yourself with the admission process and various school subjects. Enjoy your summer with a short trip with family and friends, or go for a walk or run, listen to music, attend parties, or listen to podcasts.
2. Summer Job
If you're planning to engage in a summer job in the field of your choice – it's great. A summer job could involve working in an ice-cream parlour or a café or an industry delivering some items. It should not matter what it is as it will bring you out of your comfort zone, help you develop leadership qualities, and learn a new skill. Check our post on summery planning here.
3. Preparing for PSAT, ACT and SAT
You should always take practice tests before appearing for a formal exam. In this way, there won't be any surprises when you sit for the actual exam.
- PSAT – You can take your PSAT in October, and it will help you in qualifying for the National Merit List (NML) depending on your score.
- ACT or SAT – Practice tests will help you decide which formal exam to take and move forward with. One should take the SAT or ACT test in December, which is the earlier part of the spring semester. It is always advisable to complete your examination before junior year.
- SAT subject Tests – For applying to schools of your choice, you should take the SAT subject tests in June or August based on your subjects in classes.
Create a resume of all the activities you were involved with in freshman and sophomore years. If you've already created a list, that's bound to be right for you. Now it's time to restructure your activities into different categories:
- Education – All your subjects where you have done above average performance can come here.
- Extracurricular – Anything apart from studies should go here. It can include participation details in school sports and club activities. Also, you can list here any out of school sports or club activities.
- Work Experience – You can add your summer jobs, part-time jobs, or even internships here.
- Community Service – All the community service or elderly and child-care you have done will come here.
- Interests and Hobbies – You can mention your hobbies and related projects you have done in this category.
- Awards, Honors, and Scholarships –Any awards, honors, and scholarships you have earned can be mentioned in this list.
Junior Year (fall)
All the stuff for summer also counts here. Apart from that, additional points are as follows:
- Selecting your course: Your GPA and test course are significant, apart from that course rigor also counts. You should select your class, making a balance on course rigor, your interests, and scoring subjects.
- Know your teachers: Always know your teachers and visit them during office hours. You will have to ask them to give you recommendation letters.
- Maintaining your GPA: While you're working hard for preparing for the next level by practicing tests for the ACT and SAT, you should not lose focus from your current task, i.e., scoring good grades in the existing classes at school.
- Participate: You should participate in various extracurricular activities at your school. Be a part of a club or sport that interests you. You can be a part of multiple clubs or sports-based upon your interests.
Junior Year (spring)
Now that you're well-versed in your junior year, the following steps will help you smoothly move into the senior year:
1. Recommendation Letters
You should ask the teachers who taught you in core academic subjects for recommendation letters. It is always advisable to ask teachers from different streams for a letter of recommendation. You should also check your future college website about their requirements.Different colleges have different needs when it comes to recommendation letters.
2. College List and Visits
- College List – While you would already have narrowed down a college in your mind, you should still create a list of colleges you want to apply to. You should start with what you want from a college and then create a vast list. Having a small list may make you miss a college of your choice. As and when you go through various parameters of selecting college like subjects, teachers, activities, city, or state, the list will start narrowing down.
- College Visit – Now, you should plan for college visits. You can plan to visit a college near you – even those colleges which are not in your list – to get a feel of what's right for you. You don't have to attend any session or tour for this; just get to feel it by hanging around on the college campus. After this, you can plan to visit the colleges on your list. Here, you must enrol yourself for tours and info sessions. Talk to existing students about their college and ask them all the questions you have regarding the institute or admission.
- College Info Sessions and Fairs – You should keep a check on all the planned college info sessions and fairs. Always attend these events and get your questions answered. In these fairs, you will earn the most about the respective colleges and get yourself familiarized with the whole admission process.
3. Plan for college
You should now plan for your college on the following things:
A. Financial part
There are a lot of things for this to be considered. Few questions are:
- What is the total college fee?
- Will you need financial aid?
- What are the financial aid options these colleges have?
- What are the different scholarship options available?
- What are sports or merit-based aid options available?
- Are you eligible for aids and scholarships?
After getting these answers, you can further revise your college list.
B. Location and Weather
You can consider not moving south or north, depending on your preferences. You may want to move near the sea or mountains or maybe some place warm or cold. You may have a choice for certain urban or rural places.
While considering such factors is right, you shouldn't focus too much on them if you have medical issues that could affect your stay at such places. If not, you should open your mind and be ready to break out of your comfort zone by moving to a place where you can learn and get excellent financial aid. You could lose on good education and sometimes a good scholarship if you keep yourself locked in the shackles of location and weather.
C. Culture and Size vs. Teachers and Subjects
Similar to weather and location, you may have preferences about a particular school's culture and size. But again, focusing too much on such things will only make the selection process harder for you. Instead, try concentrating on the real deciding parameters like the subjects which are being taught at a college and the teachers there. You should get in touch with the college teachers if you have a specific query about a particular course or subject.
D. Your current score
Among every college's essential admission criterion is to pick students above a minimum score range. Does your current score qualify for your prospective college's standards? This will further refine your college search.
4. Give a break to admission process
This is about you, what you want from your future, and, more importantly, who you are and what you want to be. Don't always focus on college admissions and process; give yourself a break every once a while. Don't discuss these topics over family dinners or during weekends. This will help you keep a fresh mind and at peace with all things.
5. Separate email address for admissions
You should create a separate email address for all your communication with the college if you get a lot of emails in your current email account. The last thing you'd want would be missed communication from your college in between in your emails. Always check your junk, trash, and spam folders for relevant emails that may have been sent there by error. Also, check on social and promotions headings in your mailbox.
6. Get help from the School Counselor
Remember that school counselors are there to help you. Each year they see students going through the same admission process, and hence, they are your best-experienced source to answer all queries about various colleges and admission processes.
Rising Senior (Summer)
By this stage, you would have moved a step up from junior year to senior year. All the things which you have done in your junior year (summer) will still apply. Additionally, you will need to keep the following things in mind:
You should write daily to maintain your hold on vocabulary and grammar. You can bifurcate your writing into:
- About Yourself – Write about yourself. You need not worry about anything when writing about yourself. This will make you introspect yourself. Over the days, you will learn about your good points. All these points you have written about yourself will help you to create a Personal Statement. Ensure that your statement is ready beforeOctober 1st.
- Practice Essay – The primary purpose of this is to relay who you are to the admission officer. One need not be unique or individually stand out or use heavy words. This is about telling in detail about you and only you. This way, they will know about what you think, believe, value, and act on. You should express yourself and not over-impress the panel as they go through the same process every year. They need to know about you, and this you can achieve by practicing writing essays.
2. Finalise your Resume and College List
You should now update your resume and finalize your college list. Also, for the backup plan – you should have a college which you should be sure to get admission into. It may or may not be your dream college, but this college will be your safety net – where you will surely get admission, get financial aid, and see yourself as a successful person.
3. Get in touch with colleges
If you haven't got in touch with a few colleges yet, you should get started by doing the following:
- Signup to request info from colleges
- Follow the admission office on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Always keep your decent profile picture on these pages.
- Connect with the local or regional admission office in case of any queries or questions.
Senior Year (fall)
If you have closely followed the things mentioned above, then most of your work is done. But to be sure, here is a checklist:
1. College List and Deadlines
Narrow down on your college list further and have a safety net college as a backup.Apart from this, mention the deadline dates for application submission. You shouldn't wait for the last minute to apply to colleges. In case you have any last-minute queries or doubts, they can be answered if you are applying well in time.
2. Recommendation Letters
You should have all your recommendation letters completed. Do send a reminder mail and meet personally with your teacher/recommender. Give them a copy of your resume for reference. Always send them a "Thank you note."
3. Guidance counsellor
Check regularly with your high school or college counselors. There may be some information with them which you can benefit from.
4. Completing Tests
You should complete all your tests – SAT, ACT, and Subject Tests well within time.
5. Personal Statement and Essays
First, complete your statement well before October 1st. Then start on your Essays. Create a list of the following:
- List of college Essays – Categorize each of them by college, major and extracurricular essay. Also, check whether you need any to write any additional info essay.
- Due date of each essay
- Order of essays by due date in ascending order
6. Interview Dates and Interview
Every college has a different process of signing up. Go through the college website carefully and check the method of signing up. Some colleges complete signup automatically, while some require you to sign up manually. Check your email – all folders including Social, Promotions, Junk, Trash, and Spam – for interview date and time.
For the interview, keep yourself fresh and be presentable. Believe in yourself, and you will get through it.
7. Letter of Continued Interest
A letter of continued interest (LOCI) needs to be written, in case you have deferredEarly Decision (ED).
Senior Year (spring)
By this stage, almost everything should have been completed. Now, you'd only need to keep track of the following things:
1. Finishing on Applications
All applications would be filled by now. Some colleges may have extended their application submission dates, so make sure you're aware of them. But don't delay an application just because its deadline has been extended. Also, don't forget to fill the forms for your backup colleges.
It is essential to keep your grades up as some colleges have a strict grade criterion.
3. Be Optimistic
Take care of your mental and physical health by doing meditation, yoga, walking, running, or other sports. Keep yourself fit, healthy, and optimistic about the future. Waiting for results is a hard time. There may be a couple of rejections; also, a few colleges have quite a different criterion for selecting students. Be grateful to all the people who helped you in the admission process, be it family, friends, teachers, or any online information provider. Do not get attached to any specific college. Be sure of yourself, and you will get selected in a good one
Enjoy your last days in school with your friends. Keep connected with your family and friends.
We hope this list has helped you understand the steps and processes to be followed for the college admission process, which you should follow in your junior and senior years. Now, take a deep breath, and think about all that you've done for your studies and what else you still need to do. Making a list of to-do tasks will help you achieve your target of admission in your desired college. Wishing you luck for your future!!