High School 2 College

March 18, 2021

College Application Process Starts NOW, Juniors!

For most of my students, college seems far away.  The few 10th graders I have think they’re much too young to have college on their minds.  My seniors are patiently waiting to hear from the colleges to which they applied under regular decision deadlines (or from those schools from which they got wait listed). My juniors think they’re doing quite well if they’re seeing me once a week for SAT or ACT tutoring.

Not so!

Let’s back up the timing from the end till now.

  • You want to hear back from colleges as early as possible and get as many yeses as possible, so you want to apply to several schools early action.  That means applying by October of senior year.
  • To apply by October, you have to work on your applications, especially the application essays, over the summer before senior year.
  • To work on the essays over the summer, you have to know which colleges you’ll be applying to more or less by May or  June of junior year.
  • To know which schools you want to apply to by May or June, you have to have visited several  schools – if not in person then at least virtually – in March and April of junior year.
  • To know which schools you’d like to visit or investigate in depth in March and April, you need a list of potential schools by FEBRUARY of junior year.  That means if you wait much longer, you’ll be behind in your schedule.

How should you start building that list?  I’m sure your high school guidance counselor has suggested you start with Naviance.  While Naviance can be of some help, the number of students is just too small to be useful. After all, it only includes students from your school.  If someone from your high school got into Big State U, is it because he was a sports star?  Did his parents go there?  Is he a coveted minority?  Was he an expert at the French horn?  You’ll never know from Naviance.  You need a search engine which represents more students.

Try the College Board college search. Another site with a variety of useful articles and a college search feature is College Confidential. My favorite, though, is US News & World Report because its college search tool is the least biased and has the most detailed information.  They charge $30 to access it for a year, but it has very specific, very accurate information, and I think it’s well worth the money.

Between US News and the other sites, you’ll have all the college information you need to start building a list. Think of how far away from home you want to be.  Think of what majors you want your school to have.  Do you care if your school has a big football team? Is on-campus housing important to you?  How do you feel about Greek life (fraternities and sororities)?  Is there a club or activity you want to try, like a school paper, a dance group, a religious organization like Hillel or the Newman society, a political organization, or even something fun like a board game group or ultimate frisbee?

You want your list to be huge at first, maybe 30 – 40 schools.  Include every possibility. Then start narrowing.  Are religious schools out?  How about urban schools without a campus?  Please don’t eliminate a school just because you haven’t heard of it, and don’t include schools that don’t fit your needs just because your friends are talking about them.  Build a list on your own.

Once you have a list, group your schools geographically.  Can you visit all the New York State schools over a three-day trip in the fall?  What about Pennsylvania schools or Boston schools? You’ll probably want to take a few weekends to visit schools, so start looking for fall weekends that work for your parents. Don’t forget to make appointments for school tours and information sessions before you go.  Some schools only give tours on weekends or in the morning. The most popular dates fill up quickly, and it’s absolutely worth it to take the tour rather than wandering around on your own.  Even if the tour guide isn’t the best, you’ll get credit from the school as “demonstrating interest” by going on an official tour.

If you visit a school, don’t forget to book an admissions interview if the school offers one.  If you’re not sure what to do on a college interview, take a look at this YouTube video I’ve prepared on that very topic:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGkffIAqzhE.  If you can only visit virtually, don’t forget to sign up for any online information sessions the schools on your list offer.

That should keep you busy for the next month or so, so get going! Let me know if you need help building your list or finding online resources.

Wendy Segal

http://www.wendysegaltutoring.com

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