It's not too soon to begin to keep track of deadlines for your applications, essays, financial aid, letters of recommendation, interviews and any other special requirements such as arts portfolios. Deadlines are important in the college application process. You do not want to miss out on financial aid, housing or even a seat at one of your top colleges by failing to submit information on time. Use whatever method feels easiest for you -- that might be an Excel spreadsheet, an electronic to-do list, a day planner, desk calendar or designated notebook. You can find our Application Deadline Organizer and Financial Aid Deadline Organizer available for download here in both Word and Excel. Whatever method you decide on, update it faithfully and consult it frequently to keep yourself on track for a successful admission process.
Applying to College
John Carpenter is back this month with some thoughts about who is really in the driver's seat during the college application process. While it might feel like the college admission offices are steering, if you pay attention you'll see that students have the wheel much of the time. Read on and reevaluate what you've been feeling if things are feeling out of control.
One thing I hear constantly from high school kids over and over is that applying to college is stressful. And psychologists tell us that stress comes from a feeling that we are not in control -- especially the big stuff. Getting into college falls into the “big stuff” category. But students have more control in this whole process than they may realize. So, let’s analyze that.
Your task in the next few months is to turn a four-digit universe—2,675 colleges— into a two-digit preliminary list of possibilities: the dozen or more schools you think you might like to attend. Step one in this process: Research yourself. What do you want? Before you start asking how schools are going to see you, think first about how you see yourself.
It is crucial that you set time aside to think deeply about this next phase of your life: what you want out of it, what you absolutely need to have, what you can and can't live without for four years, etc. If you are so overloaded with activities and academics that you do not take the time for self-reflection in this process, that's a mistake. Because you will end up with choices you are not truly happy with and cannot own.
Start by examining your preferences, priorities, interests, and hopes. You can fnd personality tests and “interest inventories” in some reference guidebooks such as the Fiske Guide to Colleges, or online with a Web- based service such as Naviance. Some of you may seek out friends, family, and guidance counselors to help you. Here are some questions from us about your interests and activities to help you get started:
1. What is your favorite thing to do?
2. What inspires you?
3. Which activity have you pursued outside of school that has been most meaningful to you?
If you are thinking of applying under an early action or early decision plan, we have some questions for you to consider as you decide what might be right for you. The more yes answers you can give, the more applying early might be your best approach.
If you’re considering early decision, start here and work your way through all the questions below:
• Of all the colleges on your list, is this the school where you would unquestionably enroll?
• Is your first-choice school an environment that fits you well, but also a place where you can change and grow?
• Have you felt the school where you are going to apply early decision is your first choice for more than a few days or weeks?
• Do you and your parents agree that if you are given a reasonable financial aid package, you will attend the school even if other colleges were to offer you stronger financial aid packages or a merit scholarship?
If you’re considering early action or restrictive early action, start here:
• Do your junior-year grades and classes support an early application, relative to the philosophyn and practice of the college to which you’re applying?
• Have you completed all standardized testing by October of your senior year?
In 1979, when Sheila Roberts and her family moved to Decatur, Alabama, she looked across the Tennessee River to the town of Madison and it was just cotton fields. She was a stay-at-home mother, raising two children. No longer. Today, Madison is a diverse and thriving community -- one of the fastest growing cities in the Southeast -- drawing families from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S. Army Post Redstone Arsenal and the University of Alabama at Huntsville. And Roberts counsels their students as the College and Career Advisor at Madison's Bob Jones High School.
Named for former Congressman Robert E. Jones, Jr., who represented the area from 1947 until 1977, Bob Jones is a public high school serving approximately 2,100 students. Roberts joined the staff in 2003, building the counseling program from scratch -- growing it from one file cabinet in a small study room in the Media Center to twelve file cabinets in what is now the College/Career Center. She says she is constantly struck by the benevolence, diversity and growth of the community. Bob Jones opened in 1974, moved to a larger facility in 1996, and -- underestimating the growth in the area -- had to relocate the 9th grade class a few years later until a second high school was opened last year.
University of Virginia may well have the richest history of any institution of higher learning in the country. Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 -- the first class entered in 1825 -- the Founding Father, third President of the United States and principal author of the Declaration of Independence considered it to be one of his greatest achievements. The school was built on land purchased by the fifth President of the United States James Monroe. And when the cornerstone of the university's first building was laid, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and the fourth President of the United States James Madison were all in attendance.
Thank you to CBS anchor Marissa Bailey for a great interview! Christine VanDeVelde appeared on the Sunday morning news to talk all things college admission -- applying early, making a list that's just right, essays, and more. You can see the whole segment here.
Thank you to Karen Berkowitz of Highland Park's Pioneer Press for the great article on our appearance tomorrow night, speaking with the parents of Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools. We'll be talking about grades, courses, essays, financial aid, what colleges are looking for and why and, most important, how to approach the college admission process with calm and purpose. You can read the Pioneer Press feature here.
Juniors, start the year off right by giving your best effort in all your classes. The 10th annual State of College Admission 2012 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that "academic performance in college prep courses" has been consistently rated as the top factor by colleges in admission decisions for the past decade. In 2011, 84 percent of colleges reported grades in college prep courses as decisive. One more time for emphasis: the grades you earn and the classes you take are important -- and grades in your junior year can be critical.
So focus your efforts in the classroom. Take a strong academic courseload and challenge yourself. If you are doing less than three hours of homework each day, talk with your counselor about enrolling in more advanced classes. First and foremost, what colleges will want to know about you is what you are like as a learner. Show them that.
Most private colleges -- and more and more public universities -- require letters of recommendation from one or two classroom teachers of academic subjects and the high school guidance or college counselor. Make the job easier for the teachers and counselor who will write your recommendations by providing them with a list of the colleges to which you are applying, deadlines for the recommendations and any required forms. In order to get the best result, it may also be helpful to provide the teachers who are writing your recommendations with an updated list of activities and any honors you have received, as well as a note telling them why you have chosen them to write for you.
If you have not requested these letters of recommendation, do so immediately by speaking in person with your teachers and counselor. And don’t forget to check the policies and guidelines for recommendations of both your high school and the colleges to which you're applying to be sure all requirements are being met.
And don't forget to say thank you!