Summer is here with a vengeance and all recent high school graduates should still be savoring their newly minted status. Rising seniors are off on vacation, internships or doing community service, but they should still begin to dedicate a little bit of time every day to their upcoming college applications. This could be in the form of creating their Common App account, becoming familiar with what will be the core of their college application process, beginning to research colleges and starting a list of possible topics on which they would write their college essay.
Regardless of whether a student begins his/her college application process in July or September, all applicants will have to accomplish the same tasks, some that will be short and sweet while others will require more time in order to be completed. Either way, finishing as many of the following points early will substantially reduce the stress that awaiting every applicant in the Fall.
• Common App - New this yer, the Common App will only be offline from July 27th to July 30th relaunching on August 1st. Common App Rollover allows members of the Class of 2019 to create an account with that information rolling over when the Common App relaunches. Common App Ready is a series of tutorials available to students and their parents to help them familiarize themselves with the application. Click here for more details.
• SAT/ACT - The next SAT test date is August 25th with a registration deadline of July 27th. The next ACT test date is September 8th with no registration deadline currently available. This new SAT date, which replaces the traditional January test date, allows rising seniors yet another chance to take the test and have their scores back before the early application deadlines begin, some as early as October 15th. Students from low-income families should always check if they are eligible for fee waivers.
• College List - Students should take advantage of the summer months to begin creating their college list. It takes time and shouldn't be rushed, but the effort put in does pay dividends later on. A well balanced list of reach, target and safety schools - all schools the student would be thrilled to attend - shouldn't exceed 12. No one stat - SAT/ACT scores, GPA/class rank, etc - will carry any student and pay close attention to the admission rates.
• College Essay & Prompts - The college essay can be a deal breaker for those top students and tip the scales in favor of those with a weaker academic profile. This year students will be able to choose from the same seven prompts as last year. One of the few times in the application process that the applicant can use their own voice, the essay should be taken seriously by all students. All the prompts give students a lot of leeway in what they can write about, however, there are some topics students should avoid writing about.
• Extra Curricular Activities - All students are so much more than their grades and how they spend their time outside of school speaks volumes to admission officers. See what qualifies as an extra curricular activity and remember the golden rule: quality over quantity. A list of all the activities a student is involved in outside of school will be a big help when it comes time to fill out the Common App.
• Campus Visits - Key to determining which kind of campus a student would like to attend, a campus visit is never a waste of time because much can be learned, even if it was a school you didn't like. Keep track of the little things and listen to your intuition. Few spots on a campus will better tell you if the school is a good personal fit than the cafeteria, library and dorm so make sure to visit them.
As we are all enjoying the summer and it is hard to imagine that November 1st will be upon us before you know it. But, it will! Don't get caught off guard.