College Application Timeline - August 2018

After only four days off line the 2018-2019 Common App relaunched today, August 1st, marking the official start of the college application season. The Rollover, introduced a two years ago, allowed students who had begun their application, to have their account and all their information remain intact. 

Good application planning begins with establishing personal criteria such as does the student want a small, medium or large campus; rural, suburban or urban setting, and geographical location. Next,  students need to identify possible areas of study, how far do they want to be from home, what campus culture will they be most comfortable in, sports interests, political and religious affiliations, financial and health needs, etc. The most important criteria of all should be personal fit.

In addition, here are a few other things to begin working on ....

• Check your transcript - Get a copy of your unofficial transcript and check it for accuracy. Are the classes listed and corresponding grades correct? Will all the state mandated requirements for graduation be met by June 2019 - especially important for those who have attended more than one high school? It is the student's responsibility to make sure this document is correct.

•  Senior Year Course Load - Follow the 4x5 formula as closely as possible: four years of the five core subjects: English, math, science, history and a foreign language. If it's not possible get as close as possible. State mandated requirements for graduating from high school will vary from state to state, but in general are lower than those needed for a competitive college application so avoid the temptation to take only what you need to graduate senior year and opt for a full course load.

• 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.

•  SAT/ACT Scores - One of the three important parts of a student's academic profile after the transcript and GPA/class rank. But what's a good score?   The next SAT/ SAT Subject Test test date is August 25th with a registration deadline of July 27th. it's not too late to take or retake the SAT. Click here to find out if you are eligible for a fee waiver. Note: These test dates are not available in all states.

•  College List - Begin putting together a list of schools you'd like to apply to. Everyone should aim to have a well balanced college list of reach, target and safety schoolsAnd remember, any school with a single digit admission rate, regardless of the rigor of the student's transcript or strength of SAT/ACT scores, should not be considered a safety school. 

•  College Essay - Besides good grammar and spelling, a college essay is NOT an English class essay and never assume you know what the admissions officers want to read or that a good essay is a reformatted resume. It's often the small 'incident' that makes the best essay topic. An essay has accomplished its job if the reader learns something about the applicant that is not already contained in the application. This year's Common App essay prompts are the same seven prompts as last year's, offering students a lot of flexibility in their choice of topics. 

It's hard to write about yourself, but that is what will be necessary in order to produce a solid essay, and these prompts encourage that. Ask any admissions officer and he/she will tell you that nine out of ten college essays are dull and uninteresting. A good college essay tells a story, hooking the reader from the start and giving them a peek at who the student is beyond the stats. A strong essay requires several drafts and a few weeks to complete, so be patient and don't rush the process. 

•  Campus Visits - Never a waste of time, much can be learned from a campus visit, even if it was a school you didn't like. Keep track of the little things and listen to your intuition. Best seen with students around, 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.

•  FAFSA Changes - All concerned should read up on the changes being happening with the FAFSA as, like with many things, there are pros and cons.

 Parental Role - Parents often have a hard time knowing how to best help their children with this very exciting part of their transition from adolescent to young adults, but in five words or less: be there, be supportive, but stay out of the way.

November 1st is the first, and best known, application due date. However, more and more schools are offering early application options (Early Decision, Early Action, Priority & Rolling) due dates as early as October 15th. So before students are back to juggling a senior classes course load and extra curricular activities in addition to  beginning their college applications, it would make sense to make good use of this block of time to focus purely on the college application process. It will not get any easier once school is back in session, especially for the student athletes who participate in a Fall sport.