Hopefully, you have been examining your profile and doing everything you can do to make yourself ready for college. The admissions process isn’t overwhelming unless you procrastinate! Here’s the point of this article- next year you will start applying at the colleges that you have chosen. If you’re struggling to decide how to pick a college, you might want to check this article out or use the awesome AdmissionsSplash Facebook app. I want to go through the top 4 things that, as a junior, you ought to be doing over the course of the next year.
- Look over your High school Academic Transcript: This is your grades, your accomplishments… it’s you on paper. This document will help you to set realistic goals for which college to apply to based on your accomplishments. What are Admissions Officers looking for in a high school transcript? The extent to which you challenge yourself academically relative to the resources available to you. Academic areas that interest you. Your ability to perform; in other words, what do your grades reflect? The degree to which these factors overlap with the university’s character and priorities. Eva Ostrum in her book, The Thinking Parent’s Guide to College Admissions states, “Deans of admission around the country can usually characterize in a phrase or two what they hope a transcript will reflect about a student. Jim Sumner at Grinnell College hopes to see “intellectual engagement.” Harold Wingood at Clark University describes the ideal entering students as “academically independent, willing to take academic risks.” So this summer, look over your high school grades and look for these things: Letter grades and GPA, the difficulty of the course work, the types of classes (did you focus more in one or two subjects than in others?).
- Examine your extracurricular activities: Aren’t you glad to hear that it isn’t all about grades? Well, it is mostly about your grades and most colleges are really looking for students with a strong academic profile. You can, however, increase your chances of enrollment into your reach schools by supplementing your academic profile with strong extracurricular activities; and you can have a lot of fun in the process! “Admissions officers at selective colleges and universities want to see commitment to activities over time rather than a series of single-year affiliations with various clubs or committees” (Ostrum). So there you have it, get involved with an organization or an activity and stay involved!
- Study for your Standardized Tests: Next to grades, your scores on the ACT or SAT (I & II) will be the most important part of the admissions process. Make sure that you take this test seriously. BY simply studying, you can raise your scores and by taking the tests more than once you can dramatically increase your score. This could be the difference between your reach school and your match school. Students who do not take these tests seriously do themselves a major dis-service. You will want a review time before you take the tests of about 8-12 weeks and you can utilize books, online test prep services (ePrep), or a tutor. Use the resources available to you and study for your tests. Also, plan to take the test at least twice.
- Essays: These essays are critical! If you have the grades and the test scores, then your college admissions essays need to help set you apart from the other 10,000 applicants who also have excellent grades and test scores. In order to have a winning essay, you will want to have help. Have one of your parents read it over and give you input, show it to your guidance counselor or a favorite teacher, or you can have someone like me look it over and provide feedback. Some characteristics of a winning college application essay are: They tell a story; They provide vivid examples that allow the reader to put himself in the student’s situation or mindset; They sound authentic, like they are coming from the student herself, rather than from a college-essay coach; and finally The writer gets to the heart of what she wants to say, so that the essay reflects who she is and what she cares about. Long story short, make it interesting and get to the point.
There are so many other things that go into preparing for college, but as a junior, you ought to be thinking about these key areas right now and you may want to consider some help. I offer a variety of services for students (and parents) to help students get ready for college. CAP is my online college prep course that will cover these things (and a lot more) in a four week online course. It is self directed and very easy to take so you can take the course as you need it, and once you sign up, you have access for an entire year! I also offer comprehensive in-person services that can help prepare you for college and help you get into the best school possible.
You can always call me: (619) 823-5974 (Nathan) or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
What do these two images have in common? They’re both fake. The definition of fake is:
- To prepare or make something false, deceptive, or fraudulent.
- To pretend.
- To conceal the defects of or make appear more attractive, interesting, valuable, etc., usually in order to deceive.
The alien is very obviously fake, created to entertain, or maybe deceive, but we know with certainty (at this point in time) that it is a fake. The watch (Rolex) is a little more difficult… Is it fake? What’s the difference? The alien doesn’t require an expert to see through, it is obviously fake. The Rolex may pass by most people, but it won’t pass by everyone. This is kind of like the college admissions process. Learning to be authentic is a critical part of the process.
Very soon we are going to be teaching you all about the admissions (application) process and one of the first things you will learn are that the first step to the application process is creating a portrait of who you are and how you can benefit the college. Filling out your application in complete honesty is vital. Being an authentic student is about knowing who you are, and what you want. It is about discovering your strengths and living in them every day. Being authentic is about being real with yourself and everyone else around you.
There are a couple of key areas that people try and “make up” at the last minute in order to be more of what the college they’re trying to go to wants such as:
- Community service. Some students have never helped a soul in their life (on paper anyway) and then in their senior year they somehow track 160 hours of community service. To your parents you might be a saint (see fake Rolex above), but to college admissions counselors, you’re just another con (see obvious alien fake).
- Fake Essays. Don’t you want to make yourself look good? Yes! But an essay that isn’t written by you, or has been seriously doctored by someone else just screams “FAKE!” Don’t try to fake it! Be real and passionate and write about what you really care about, what has really made a difference in your life! You won’t fool a trained essay reader who reads hundreds of essays a day; they can spot an alien faker a mile away.
- Recommendations: A lot of emphasis has been put on recommendations in recent years; but don’t be a faker! If you don’t know the person, don’t ask them for a recommendation! Make sure you get to know important people in your life (like a pastor, your guidance counselor, or a family friend who happens to be alumni from Harvard), and make sure they know you! When you go to ask them for a recommendation, they will already know you and will be excited to write you a recommendation that is believable and real.
While there are more areas we could discuss, these are some of the major areas, and it is vital that you be honest with yourself and your college. Here’s a little tip- Colleges are looking to pepper their campuses with talented and diversified students, this means that you don’t have to fit inside of a box that I create, or your parents create, or the college creates. You must have good grades and test scores, this proves your work ethic- but secondarily, the college needs to see why you would be a good fit for their school.
Authentic applicants take the long view of an educational journey, as they look at what the college years will actually contribute in the form of skills, knowledge, and values to their goal of living a meaningful life. They avoid getting locked into the quest for a “dream school,” a path that would restrict their options. They consider their families’ finances, and they research all the options available, including some little-known ones available at the least-expensive schools. At the same time, they don’t shy away from a selective school that’s right for them simply because it.
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Chapter 1: Getting Organized
By: College Life Planning
Getting organized for college is the most important step before applying. In order to get organized, you need to establish a college checklist. There are a handful of tests, registration dates, requires courses, extracurricular activities and meetings which should be done during your sophomore and junior year of high school.
For those who are sophomores and in the 10th grade, the first step is to take challenging courses in the areas of English, history, geography, foreign languages, government, economics, math, science, and the arts. The next item on your checklist is to speak with your counselors and locate adults willing to talk to you about their profession. Ask them what they like and dislike about their jobs and what level of education is needed for each profession. The third thing on your college prep and college checklist is to get involved in extracurricular activities which interest you or which help you to explore which kind of career you are looking for. Make sure to use your summer wisely in this regard and incorporate a summer course at a local community college, a summer job for experience, or volunteer work. The next item on your checklist is to meet with your counselors to discuss the requirements of each college you are considering. Take the practice SAT tests as well as National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Register early for these and speak with your counselor for fee waivers if you cannot pay the registration fee. Make sure to continue saving for college at this point and visit colleges if you can. Part of saving for college requires an understanding of financial aid. You should learn the difference between college loans, grants, work study, and scholarships. This can be done at www.college.gov. Talk to other college students you know about their experiences to gain insight. They can recommend career paths for summer employment as well as colleges which might match your interests.
You aren’t the only one who has a checklist to create. Your parents should be part of your checklist. Their roles include helping you balance a part time job with school, helping you take night courses at a local college or contributing to financial aid. They should help you learn about the required standardized tests and read an overview of financial aid options and scholarship options for you at www.ed.gov/parents.
For those in their junior year of high school, the college checklist which should be created expounds upon the initial checklist for the 10th grade. You should continue taking challenging courses such as AP courses in the areas of English, history, geography, foreign languages, government, economics, math, science, and the arts. After this you should continue to meet with your counselor or career advisor to discuss the colleges you are interested in and what their individual requirements are. The third item on the checklist is continuing with your participation in extracurricular activities through your school and/or your local community. At this point you should begin to decide which colleges are of the most interest to you. Add to your checklist that you should contact each of the most interesting colleges and request additional information as well as the admission application. Speak with them about any special admissions requirements, deadlines for admissions, as well as financial aid. The next check point is to attend college fairs and speak with the college representatives about admissions information. After this, visit the colleges you find most interesting and speak with current students to get a first-hand perspective. Now you begin considering people who would write letters of recommendation for you. Consider people such as teachers, employers, or counselors. When you consider your field of study, consider which jobs you want. Exploring careers as well as their potential for earnings can be done through www.bls.gov/oco.
The next step is investigating financial aid from federal sources, state sources, local and private sources. Counselors can offer information pertaining to this. On the same note, add to your check list the investigation of scholarships. These are offered by credit unions, religious groups, labor unions, corporations, professional associations, as well as private parties. Libraries will help you locate scholarship directories for females, minorities, and people who are disabled. The next step is to register for the SAT I, SAT II, ACT, and any AP tests and then take them. For those who have difficulty paying the registration fee, your counselor can help direct you to fee waivers. During the fall of your junior year is when you have to take the PSAT and the NMSQT in order to qualify for scholarships. In the spring is when you register and take the SAT and ACT. Lastly, you should continue to save for college.
By this time you will be ready to discuss your college plans in detail, complete all of the financial aid forms on time, write to your colleges, take all necessary entrance exams, prepare your application, and visit those colleges you truly wish to pursue. Helpful websites for this stage include:
Step 1 – Be a Pain! Let everyone know that you’re going to college and need their help.
- Never say no. Don’t ever take that “no” in your head for an answer!
- Find family support. So what if your parents didn’t go to college? Your folks may well have real experience and knowledge that can help you on your way.
- Call on coaches. Ask your teachers and coaches for advice on college – it’s their job to help you succeed.
- Gain experience. Track down places outside of school where you can get real-world experience from adults who can show you how it’s done.
- Seek advice. If you can’t talk with your school counselor, check your local community college or community center and meet with the counselors there.
- Make connections. Connect with family, friends or neighbors who have been to college and ask them how they got there.
Steps 2 – Push Yourself! Working a little harder today will make getting into college even easier.
- Take the right classes. To get into college, start by taking the right classes in high school. Find out what classes you need to meet entrance requirements and sign up for them now. Lock in requirements. You may not need them to finish high school, but most colleges require three to four years of math, English, science and social studies. Plus, most want at least two years of the same foreign language.
- Meet the challenge. Sure, grades are important, but the tougher the courses you take, the more likely it is that a college will decide to take you. In general, most colleges prefer students who challenge themselves with harder courses, even if they earn only average grades, than those who take easier courses just to get higher grades.
- Achieve honors. Honors and Advanced Placement courses are the gold standard for colleges and carry much more weight than other courses in working out your grade point average.
- Tap into computing. Courses in computer science (or even classes that require you to use computers in researching or completing projects) will give you the skills you need to make the grade at college.
(Exception: in some cases, tougher courses such as AP and Honors are not better than higher GPA College Prep- it is important to know and understand what the school you want to go to is looking for.)
Step 3 – Find the Right Fit! Find out what kind of school is the best match for you and your career goals.
- What’s the right match? The kind of college you choose to attend should reflect your goals and your personality. Whether you choose a public, private, community, technical, trade or even online college, make sure it’s the best match for you.
- Big or small? Do you want to attend a big university with more choices of studies and social activities, but also larger lecture classes? Or would you like fewer choices but more personal attention and a better chance to stand out? You decide.
- Home or away? Attending a local college versus boarding out of state – what’s better? It depends. For some, residence hall life is an important part of the college experience, but commuting from home is less expensive.
- Which major works? Figuring out what you like doing most, plus what you’re best at, can point to the careers you should consider – and what majors will help you reach your career goal.
- Why extras matter. Getting into extracurricular activities outside of class – band, science club, the school newspaper, drama or even volunteering – helps you discover what your real interests are and where you’re heading.
Step 4 – Put Your Hands on Some Cash! If you think you can’t afford college, think again. There’s lots of aid out there.
- Who gets it? Many more people than you might think. Financial aid is awarded based on need or merit – academic achievement, athletics and other talents. But you have to apply for aid to find out.
- What kind of money? Grants, scholarships, work-study, student loans – there are a lot of different types of financial aid out there. You need find out which kind or combination works best for your needs.
- Where do you look? Colleges expect you and your parents to pay what you can, but schools, state and federal governments, and private businesses and organizations are also great sources for financial aid.
- Is it free money? Not likely – most financial aid packages are a mixture of grants that don’t need to be paid back and loans that do, but not until after you graduate from college.
- How to apply. Your school guidance counselor can help you, including how to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which makes you a candidate for all federal student aid. For help online, go to http://www.collegegoalsundayusa.org/.
- Do deadlines matter? Absolutely. College financial aid goes fast. The earlier you can get in your FAFSA application and all of the other information that a college asks for, the sooner you’ll receive your financial aid package.
This is from the federal website: http://studentaid.ed.gov
There are exceptions and it is important to do your own research. Sometimes particular schools are looking for particular candidates. If you would like help, I would be more than happy to help walk you through the process!
College Life Planning