I realized that regarding college consulting, I’m right in the thick of it! This is the high season especially since the Common Application was released. As a high school teacher, guess what…also right in the thick of it! Starting a new school year, no matter how many years you’ve been at it (this is year sixteen for me), is very exhausting as we plan, plan, plan.
So then I thought about the people I work with. If you are a high school senior, then you should be in the thick of it right now too! So here are TOP TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD BE DOING RIGHT NOW, FUTURE COLLEGE GRADUATES:
10) Finish your personal statement. Really, you should be done with it, but you like to add stress to the lives of all the people in your life trying to help you out. So finish it already.
9) Gather letters of recommendation. You know that sign the school secretary has on her desk that says some variation of “your emergency doesn’t mean I have to hurry up”? You probably never thought twice about that sign printed in Comic Sans with the really angry cat staring at you. But ol’ Mrs. Wiggins has a point. And if you are the diligent students I know you to be, you would have already asked your teachers for letters of recommendations well before the school year started and now sending the links from the Common App with those friendly, gentle reminders. There’s no way that you haven’t asked yet. No way!
8) Draft supplemental essays. Now that the applications are available, you will see that some schools want an additional essay. Get her done, son! These are shorter but super important. Look at it as another opportunity to show how awesome you are.
7) Visit. I’m sure you have visited some college campuses, but hit up some more. You can never know too much. I had a really cool advisor in undergrad. When I told her I was thinking of moving off-campus, she said “walk around the neighborhood at 2:00 pm on Sunday, then 6:00 pm on Tuesday, and finally 8:30 am on Thursday. Then see if you want to live there.” Truer words have never been spoken. It might be time for your Tuesday and Thursday visits. No tour guides. No map. Just vibe for a bit. And do #6.
6) Talk to the admissions office. This makes students nervous and they try to make calls and drop their voices a few octaves. But when you call, you are likely to get a student who was in your position just a year prior which doesn’t really help your situation. All of those questions that might be campus-specific, or you are not confident in what you’ve been told, ask them directly. Some of these questions are: How many AP classes should I take out of my planned major? Would I be considered a transfer student if I take classes next summer at the community college? Is it better to get a letter from my Chemistry or English teacher if I intend to major in History? Your website says the SAT II is optional but how many admitted students have taken it? Which reminds me…
5) Register for the SAT II. In college access, you want to think about the word “optional” really meaning that you opt to do it. Remember that there aren’t going to be major differences between you and the other guy so put as many tools in your toolbox as possible.
4) Fill out the Common App. Fill out what you can now. Don’t submit it, just get that piece done and out of the way.
3) Look up private scholarships. No matter how many times I tell students, they always want to wait on this one. And what’s even more confusing, these are students who are dependent on scholarship monies in order to go to school. Scholarship deadlines are almost identical to college application deadlines. Yes, you will automatically “apply” for some scholarships offered by the school, but that is not the case for private scholarships especially those big ones (e.g. Gates Millenium). Millions in scholarship monies go unclaimed each year. And don’t forget about the small ones; that $500 scholarship is going to look real nice when you’re picking up your Organic Chemistry materials in the bookstore.
2) Make sure your transcript looks solid. This is your last chance to impress with your grades and in this case, the classes you are going to take. If you haven’t been so great in Social Science, talk to your school counselor about what classes are available to demonstrate you can do well in that subject area. Creating a schedule based on your anticipated senioritis is all bad. All bad! You are basically saying that when it mattered most, you decided to take a breather and skate by. I can’t think of any job or college that would want that level of lazy around.
1) Be a grown-up. Applying to college is only the first step in your grown-up life. Start doing the rest. Investigate checking account options. Look into public transportation on your campus. How much would the flight home be for you? Where could you work part-time? I was born in November which means when I went off to college, I was under 18. I had a whopping $200 in my pocket and figured that would be cool in New York City (!!) until my first paycheck from my part-time job. But I couldn’t be employed in New York without a parent signature on a form only available at public high schools. All because I was under 18. I had to literally enroll at a local high school, get the form, send it to my parents in Cali, and have them mail it back before I could start my weekend gig at Old Navy. When I went to open a bank account to put that first check into, I searched for banks that also existed in California (Bank of America is a complete misnomer, by the way). At the time, I found one and whenever I was home, had to drive way out of my way for a few bucks. Point is, all of that headache could have been avoided with some advanced planning…that you can do now.