The class of 2020 has a bad rep when it comes to guidance. We are officially on our fourth guidance counselor, through no fault of our own! Because of this lack of consistency through the years, we’ve guided ourselves through many parts of the college planning process. It may be late for some, but it’s still early for others. Here is some college planning advice from a senior who’s made it through the process herself:
It starts junior year. As much as juniors want to push it off to senior year, it is a really really smart decision to know some of the things you’re looking for by the end of junior year. You obviously don’t need to have an entire life plan set by the time you’re 16—that would be insane. However, knowing simple things like if you want a big or small school, if you want to go public or private, if you have the grades to apply to certain schools you’ve already been thinking of, and what type of major you might want to go into.
The summer between junior and senior year should be a time of planning. Please, please start writing your essays over the summer. That may sound daunting, but it’s actually super easy. The prompt is, quite literally, write whatever you want. Obviously Common App has some guidelines and ideas if that’s too broad for you.
It’s also a seriously good idea that if you already know the type of major you want to go into, you start looking for internships.
You should email your teachers over the summer for letters of recommendation. It gives them more time to write you a good letter, instead of cramming all the letters in during the week before the deadline. Ideally, you should ask a teacher that is in the major you’re interested in, and one that also likes you. If a teacher doesn’t like you, it will show in your letter, no matter how eloquent at writing the teacher is.
If you already know some of the colleges you might like to apply to, you should also start visiting. Visit as many colleges as you can get to. Their websites can only tell you so much about how the school is. Visiting a school is a super important part of the college application and selection process. Ask any senior and I can almost guarantee that they will have a story of a campus visit that boosted (or killed) their desire to apply to the school.
At the beginning of senior year you should start finalizing your list of schools. Ideally, get the number of schools you’re applying to less than seven, five being an ideal number: two reaches, two moderates, and one safety.
Follow up with your teachers about your letters of recommendation. Something you won’t hear until it’s almost too late: there’s a form in guidance that you need to fill out for your teachers and guidance counselor letters of recommendation. Fill them out as soon as possible because it’s super easy to do and super easy to forget about. Plus, it keeps your teachers a little bit more organized.
Organize a meeting with your guidance counselor to get all the annoying and confusing things squared away, such as the FERPA form, your transcript, and submitting letter of recommendation requests through CommonApp.
When you have your list of schools, you should start looking at deadlines and requirements as soon as possible. Look at tuition, SAT scores, housing/commute, supplementary essays, and financial aid requirements.
Finish your essay! Don’t wait until the day you apply to write your essay! Also, your english teachers are excellent resources for editing.
When applying double check the requirements at least a few days before applying. Sometimes, things pop up that you didn’t know about before and you need to take care of them before the due date. There are no extension on college applications.
Good luck to everyone applying!