As we approach college application deadlines this fall and winter, it’s just as important to stay sane, organized, and productive as it is to create your strongest application for admission to your dream schools. This post is for students and parents of current Seniors as well as Juniors – it’s never too early to start planning and preparing. The earlier you start, the easier and less stressful your life will be!
Before jumping into tactics, I always like to get some perspective during this process. It’s easy to get lost in comparison, what other students are doing, what tutors they’re using, especially with highly competitive schools. But never forget that you are uniquely YOU, and it’s as much about YOUR finding the right school and fit as it is trying to convince the schools to accept you.
Research Schools, Deadlines, and Make a Grid!
First, researching schools has a lot to do with
-major (i.e. your general subject areas of interest)
Students often stress about picking and applying to a specific major. While it’s great to have an idea of what you may want to study and do as a career, the reality is that it’s very likely this will change. And you’re looking to get into the school, not get into the major. Once you’re in, you can explore majors, take a variety of classes, and change your mind. The goal is to get into your dream school first. That said, if there’s 0 chance you want to be a doctor, for example, you probably don’t want to apply to pre-med at Johns Hopkins – because it’s extremely competitive and you’re applying alongside students who’ve known they wanted to be doctors since they were 7. This is where the research comes in. Get familiar with schools’ strengths, ethos, core values, and vibes. Remember: researching schools is as much about finding the right fit for yourself as it is about showing them that you’re the right fit. When you’ve chosen your target schools, speaking their language on the application says a lot about how excited you are to be part of their family.
Once you’ve done your due diligence about the schools’ history, majors, size, location, etc. get familiar with deadlines. Making a mental (and physical) timeline of dates, deadlines, and required submission items will immediately lower your stress level because you’ll have a consolidated place to refer to all things college apps. And these deadlines will then inform the rest of your decisions about corresponding requirements like SAT test dates and prep, recommendations, essays etc.
Make a grid! I can’t emphasize the importance of organization enough. Trust me, it will change your life. Here’s a screenshot example of what that might look like. You can modify, of course, and these target schools are just examples. Take a look at the title categories and use them to inspire your own.
Common App Sign Up
Register and sign up as soon as you can – commonapp.org. Easy!
Get familiar with the platform and the supplementary requirements for various schools.
Once you get familiar with the general range of scores for your favorite schools, take note of all the offered test dates from end of Junior through Senior year. Plan to start studying at least 3 months before the test. And get a tutor! Novel Education has some of the best SAT prep tutors in the game, but there are a multitude of test prep companies and freelance tutors who you can use as resources. Don’t go it alone. We’ve been doing this for a long time and there’s a reason we get incredible results because we’ve figured out how the test thinks!And don’t forget, it’s ok to take the test again after you submit your applications if you think you can boost your score. Colleges will consider your best scores as part of your overall application.
I’m going to do a whole post on resumes and “achievement banks.” The earlier students start learning how to write resumes, the better because resume writing is a skill that you can carry with you for life! For purposes of college applications, start by breaking your resume down by year. And keep track of your achievements and things that make you unique. Schools use resumes to get to know you and how you spend your time.
-Applications are as much about the right fit for you as for the school so remember your value
-Do plenty of research
-Don't be afraid to ask for help