Labor Day marks the end of the summer, the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, and rising high school seniors will soon all be involved in starting their college applications. All applicants, regardless of their academic profile, will be following the same steps in the college application process; fine tuning what their final college list will look like, selecting the topic of their college essay, whether to apply early or regular decision, and so on.
I can’t stress enough that the time put in at this end of the application process will pay dividends come next Spring. Students who do their research and carefully consider all the criteria that is important to them will eliminate a lot of doubt later on in the process.
In review, the three most critical pieces of information needed to identify the best suited schools are: the transcript, GPA/class rank and SAT/ACT scores. Each college ranks the importance of these three elements, and others, differently so make sure to check College Board for your schools policies and admission philosophies.
Other steps every applicant should make sure they have considered are as follows:
• Retake the SAT/ACT - Students should be encouraged to take either, or both tests, at least twice, especially if not happy with the first scores. They are different so read up and decide which one is best suited to you. Don't forget to take advantage of the four FREE test scores that come with each registration. This is especially important for low income applicants and remember to check to see if you are eligible for fee waivers.
• Which application to use? Based on the colleges on the final list the Common App might not be the best applications.
The Common App is accepted by over 900 colleges both nationally and internationally. First- time applicants and transfer students will be guided through the application process with the help of its multiple tutorials and tools. Capped at 20 applications, the Common App has become the go-to app for students applying to college.
An alternative to the Common App, the Coalition Application is accepted by approximately 140 colleges that all meet the same criteria: affordable tuition, need-based aid, and a 6 yr graduation rate of 70% or higher. Not sure which you should use? See what the differences are here.
Interested in going to college in California? Then you will need to fill out the University of California application. Review this application carefully as the application requirements are slightly different and there are additional essays to write. Note: California now offers FREE tuition to community college for qualified in-state applicants.
• College List - Take the time to create a well-balanced college list of no more than a dozen reach, target and safety schools. More is not necessarily better and application fees add up quickly so do your due diligence. An applicant should be happy to attend any of the schools they apply to regardless if it is a safety, target or reach.
• College Essay - This year's essay prompts are unchanged from 2018-2019. Highly selective schools and honors programs often ask for supplemental essays, so don't forget to check. Do not take these supplementary essays lightly because they do serve a purpose and don't let the small word count limit fool you. They take time to write properly and are one of the few opportunities in the applicant process where student’s can use their own voice.
• Letters of Recommendation - If you haven't yet selected which teacher/coach/mentor will be writing your letters of recommendation now is the time to reach out and ask. But don't ask just anyone! Schools that look at the character of the applicant rely heavily on these letters, so pick wisely.
• International Students - Representing a larger percentage of the student population on campuses across the country, these students must start their application process earlier in order to accomplish the additional steps necessary.
• Parental Role in the Application Process - Parents are implicated in the college application process, but their roles are well defined and should be respected.
Unfortunately, some students have chosen to stretch the truth, or worse, on their college applications so schools now do verify all the information submitted by applicants throughout the application process. They have also been known to check a student’s social media profile to see if the student’s character is a good fit for their campus.
Today's college applicant has two main tools - College Board and Naviance to help them stay on task during the college application process, and with Early Decision, Early Action and Priority application deadlines fast approaching - some as early as Oct 15th - rising high school seniors no longer have the luxury of time when it comes to their college applications. It’s not too early to start!