Get More Knowledge on Applying to College: What Senior Year Students Should Be Doing Right Now!
The back to school season brings cooler weather, amazing deals on school supplies, reunions with friends and classmates, and, for some, college applications. For rising seniors, the fall semester is a crucial time during which they will apply to the colleges of their choice through the Common Application, while still dealing with the workload of their senior year classes. This can be a stressful balance, so the right time to prepare yourself for the grueling season of college apps is now. Here are a few simple things you can do in order to get organized and set yourself (and your applications!) up for success.
First, make sure your list of desired colleges is solid and includes at least a few that you can see yourself attending. Make sure to add each of these schools to your Common Application account and take note of the application requirements and due dates. The best way to stay organized is to make a Google Document (use Google Docs to access it anywhere with wifi) with the specific requirements for each school along with the corresponding due date. By doing this, you can clearly see everything together and laid out in a concise and organized way to help you get your applications done effectively!
Next, now that you know what each college requires, it’s time to get started on the personal statement. Every school will require a personal statement from you and some will require additional, usually shorter, supplements. Ideally, you should start writing these over the summer, since the best essays are the product of several drafts and ideas that are produced over a few months; give yourself the time to accomplish that. As you begin to work on your essays and supplements, create a Google folder where you can keep all of your drafts and completed works. Many schools have similar prompts, and while you should never copy and paste the same essay into many applications, having all of your essays in one place will give you an arsenal of material that you can use for reference and inspiration. With all of this prepared, set time aside every day to add to the folder and work on the statements. Doing a little bit of work each day will save you from being overloaded with schoolwork, college applications, extracurriculars and more responsibilities that you may have as you get closer to the due date.
A sweeping personal statement alone isn’t enough to gain acceptance to your dream school; most schools, if not all, require recommendations. It’s important that you identify teachers from your sophomore and junior years with whom you had a strong relationship to write your recommendation. College admissions officers will tell you that sometimes a well-written and passionate letter of recommendation can solidify an acceptance. Teachers will undoubtedly be bombarded with requests to write college recommendations, so it’s best to ask for these at the end of your junior year. If you haven’t asked them yet, don’t panic. There is still time to do so as soon as school starts up in the fall. Do not ask teachers who never taught you to write recommendations––they should have tangible in-class examples of your character that can be reflected in your recommendation. Once you find at least two teachers who are willing to write positive recommendations for you, do your best to make their jobs easier. Ask what colleges they will submit the letters to and remind them of due dates so that they don’t forget. These letters will benefit you in future applications (these don’t have to be college apps; letters of recommendation can also be required for certain internships and academic programs) so it’s in your best interest to save them!
Get ready to send your test scores to any colleges that you apply to. Any SAT/SAT II, ACT, or AP scores that you take after you know where you are applying can be sent to the school directly on your behalf during registration or for a few days after the exam. However, any exams you’ve taken before must be sent to the colleges online. There is a fee (usually $12 per test) for sending the scores, but you may be eligible for fee waivers––check with your guidance counselor. Everyone knows how important SAT and ACT scores are for admission, but make sure to send your AP scores as well; they can save you college credits once you start college, therefore saving you time and money!
Search for scholarships. While you are applying to the schools of your choice, you should also be applying for scholarships, which could save you and your family money. There are many online databases such as Scholly, Fastweb Scholarships, and more as well as hard-copy books that have endless scholarship opportunities for students of all backgrounds. When applying, you may need to write essays. Refer back to your personal essay arsenal to speed up the process and apply to as many scholarships and scholarship programs as possible. Meet with your guidance counselor and tell them that you are interested in scholarship programs––there are a few that they can recommend you for if they think you might be a good fit. College is expensive and scholarships definitely help to make the cost easier.
The start of the school year brings new beginnings for students in all grades, but for those entering their senior year of high school, it also brings endless opportunities. Taking advantage of the time you have now will propel you forward and give you the chance to complete the college admissions process more efficiently, helping you gain access to the university of your dreams!
Frances Kweller Bio
Frances Kweller is a lawyer, and an education and testing standards and college admissions expert. She founded Kweller Prep in 2000 while a college student at NYU. Her program was developed to offer accelerated educational opportunities to students within the same neighborhood in Forest Hills, Queens where she was raised. Throughout the years, Kweller Prep expanded across two locations in New York City, employs over fifty tutors, and published its own line of textbooks. Ms. Kweller graduated from the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University and from Hofstra University School of Law. She is a mother of two young girls, Jessica and Michelle, and looks forward to their participation in her prep program.