Things to Do Before School Begins to Prepare for the College Application Process

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I remember that a year ago I was anxiously awaiting August 1: the day when college applications open. College applications are exciting yet daunting. I remember being stressed about getting it all done, getting into schools, choosing a school. Obviously most of those items aren't things to get stressed out about before school even starts (I promise that it will work out the way it's supposed to) but a year ago, that's what I was stressed about haha.

To hopefully help all of you high school seniors be less stressed than I was about the process (and it is a process haha), I've put together a list of tasks to get done before school even starts. Getting stuff done for college doesn't sound like the most fun summer activity (trust me, I understand!) but you'll be thankful that you made it a dent in it when you have homework when the applications are due. Obviously you don't have to do all of this before school starts but even starting one of these tasks will help you out so much!

Schedule a meeting with your college counselor
I am so blessed to have had an amazing college counselor at my high school. It truly made a difference in my college search as I had someone to go to who could answer all of my questions (and I had a lot). Before school started, I scheduled a meeting with her to talk about applications and it was so helpful.

Look through your applications and write down every. single. question you have
I was on vacation when applications opened last year but while I was at a coffee shop, I opened my laptop and looked through each application to see what they were asking. While doing this, grab a notebook and note every question or thing that you're confused about. This will make your meeting with your college counselor so much easier as you'll actually know what to ask them.

Decide what schools to apply to
At this point, you probably have a list of schools that you're interested in attending. I'm all for options but when I applied, I made a point to only apply to schools that I could see myself attending. It makes your decision so much easier as you don't have as many "maybes" to choose from. Did I tour a campus after applying and decide it wasn't for me? Yes but that's okay as it led me closer to the school for me (Clemson!!).

Only applying to schools you could see yourself attending also helps to save a bit of money as college applications (and sending your scores) are expensive. I applied to 7 schools and think that was a good number. But I have friends who applied to 4 schools and it worked for them as well as friends who applied to 12.

Another important aspect of choosing what schools to apply to is choosing between "reach", "target",  and "safety" schools. Reach are schools that you are slightly below their average GPAs/test scores but have a chance on a good day, target schools are where you fit into their average GPAs/test scores, and safety schools are where you above their average GPAs/test scores.

Talk to your parents about financials
This can be a tough discussion but it's important to talk to your parents about how you will be paying for college/will you need to fill out the FASFA/etc. If you're looking at private schools, it is definitely a good idea to talk to your parents about how much they feel comfortable paying (or how much you can pay) before getting your heart set on a school without knowing what kind of scholarship money you will receive.

Schedule college tours for schools you haven't seen yet
After deciding to apply, plan to tour a campus if you haven't already (or tour again!). Not only does this help you decide if the school is the place for you, it also serves as another form of demonstrated interest, which some schools may consider when reviewing your application.

Fill out all the "general" information on your applications
Most applications have sections for you to fill out personal information, such as your full name, address, parents's names, parents's occupation, etc., that isn't difficult but can be time consuming. Doing this early knocks one thing off of your list and gets it out of the way.

Write your essays/short answers
The last thing I wanted to do over summer break was write more essays but it truly helps to have them done (or at least started!) by the time school rolls around. If you are applying to schools via the Common App, you will have one general essay that you can send to each school but other schools will have additional essays or short answers to fill out. Coming up with a topic for each essay/short answer is also helpful as you have something to work off of.

Find an editor for your essays
Your college essays are not the time to briefly proofread your essay before turning it in. Finding a good editor for your essays who will be honest with you (so probably not your parents- sorry mom and dad!) is so important to make sure that you are turning in your best work. My English teacher/NHS advisor edited all of mine and I knew I was getting honest feedback on them. I would also recommend asking them to read your essays a few weeks before your deadline as it makes life easier for both of y'all. And maybe bring a coffee to say thank you!

Add important dates to your calendar
Each school has different deadlines to go by (early action, early decision, regular decision, priority, needs to be in by a certain date to be considered for scholarships, etc.) so I definitely recommend making note of this in your agenda or calendar so you don't forget and have your application turned in before the deadline approaches.

Schedule to re-take the SAT or the ACT
I wound up taking the SAT three times (in March and June of junior year then October of senior year) and then the ACT once (June of junior year). Both my college counselor and SAT tutor recommended to take it again (whether the SAT or ACT) my senior year as your scores tend to naturally improve. Sign up for the test now (October is a good time typically so your scores can get in if you apply early) so you don't have to worry about it later.

Anything to add? Are you an incoming high school senior this fall? Let me know in the comments!

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