Getting a Head Start on College Admissions Planning

If you are a high school junior, or even sophomore, NOW is the time to begin the process of college admissions planning.


While high school seniors are busily engaged in the college admissions process, juniors may feel that they have all the time in the world. The truth is, now is the time to start the process of college admissions planning. Beginning early will go far in alleviating undue stress during senior year. Why is it so important to start planning at least one year ahead of time?

Generating a list of best-match colleges takes time! A student's career goals and potential college major should be considered as should financial considerations, a college's geographical location, size,student population, selectivity (based on GPA, standardized test scores, extracurricular participation, etc.) and other personal, criteria.

Ideally, a student will identify two or three favorite institutions which indicate a good chance of acceptance. He should also indicate two "safety" schools and two "reach" schools. The creation of this all-important list requires thorough research about each institution and a realistic assessment of a student's chances of admission. It often takes several weeks or even months to create this list.

Once a best-match list is created, a timeline should be crafted which identifies deadlines for standardized testing, interviews, teacher recommendations, the submisssion of the Common Application and its required essay, and any Supplemental essays for individual colleges/universities. Decisions should also be made reagrding which colleges, if any, will be applied to Early Decision I, Early Decision II, Early Action, and Regular Admissions as these will affect the deadlines in the timeline. Colleges differ regarding admissions deadlines, standardized test score requirements, interview availability, use of the Common Application, and the desire for submission of an Arts and/or Athletic Supplement.

Because most competitive colleges require a Supplemental Essay which is unique to their institution, the best-match list is crucial in identifying which essays will need to be written. Common Application essays and Supplemental Essays by college/university are made available on-line in Early August on the Common Application website at www.commonapp.org.

Sometimes upwards of five or more distinct essays in addition to the Common Application essay will need to be written. This takes time---and thought. Waiting until senior year to begin these essays provides precious little time to create a well-developed submission. Colleges value the essay as a way to get to know the applicant beyond her grades, test scores, extracurricular involvement, etc. The importance of these essays cannot be overstated.

Colleges have specific requirements regarding submission of SAT I, ACT, and SAT II scores. Sat II tests (formerly known as Achievement Tests) illustrate competency in a particular subject area. There are currently 20 available SAT II exams available and competitive colleges/universities often require SAT II subject tests in Math, Science, English, and/or any subjects in which a student may demonstrate high proficiency. Knowing which colleges require these tests is imperative when creating a time line.

College interviews are often made available to applicants. Some interviews are strongly recommended and evaluative, some are suggested and non-evaluative, and others not made available. If a college/university makes interviews available and that particular institution is high on a student's best-match list, he/she should schedule and participate in an interview if at all possible. A head start in the scheduling of interviews as well as campus visits can go far in alleviating senior year stress.

Ample time to adequately explore best-match possibilities, create thoughtful, impactful essays, fully explore financial aid/scholarship possibilities, schedule interviews, and put ones absolute best foot forward when applying to college is critical to increasing an applicant's chances of admission!

Teens have spent a lifetime studying, test-taking, and being shuttled to myriad extracurricular activities with the hope of crafting the best college acceptance resume. Unfortunately, many drop the ball during the college admissions process by believing that GPA, test scores, and extracurricular activities alone will speak for themselves. Putting all of the pieces together in a compelling, clear, and error-free fashion can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection to a particular institution.




This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Patsy Porco October 16, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Thanks for the advice. It's very helpful!
Leslie Yager October 17, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Seems like college admissions process starts in preschool, not junior year of high school! But all your advice is spot on!


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