“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.”
― Robert H. Schuller
In the first part of CTCL’s series about preparing for the college search and application process this summer, I encouraged readers to identify a core set of values and questions to assess how well colleges match up to those values. In this article, I suggest specific activities you should start right now to get ahead and have a great senior year.
1. Set a regular time for your college work each week.
Self-reflection, online research, in-person visits, college essays, and tracking applications: It all take time. Soon you will be starting your senior year, which will be full of fun experiences you won’t want to miss and likely your most rigorous schedule of classes yet. Set aside a weekly college planning time and set yourself up for a successful senior year.
Keep the planning time when school begins. Stick to it like a class or a mandatory practice. Spending a little time each week to work on the process—writing your essay, creating to-do lists, scheduling visits—can help you avoid frantically submitting application essays minutes before a midnight deadline or—worse—missing a deadline altogether.
2. Don’t miss an opportunity because you miss a deadline.
College admission includes a lot of confusing terminology: Early Action, Regular Decision, EFC, Writing Supplements. And, to top it off, what colleges expect you to do and by when can vary from campus to campus. These details and deadlines matter, and a tracking document is a proven tool for keeping them in check.
Start a spreadsheet and list the colleges you are researching row by row. Then, add information pertinent to each one in new columns: application deadlines, documents required, how many essays, which tests are required (or which schools are test-optional), etc.
Want to make this document work especially hard for you? Pay attention as to whether there are different deadlines to be eligible for merit aid or special scholarship programs. Track visit opportunities so you can plan trips in the fall. Make note if the college uses their own application platform or if they accept the Common Application. When you begin applying, you’ll have two powerful pieces of information at the ready: a full list of the materials needed for each application and all the deadlines.
Bonus #1: Almost every single college you apply to is going to send you a link to a portal where you can track your application status, see which materials have been received, and receive notifications about admission decisions. Add those links to the tracking document so they are easy to find.
Bonus #2: Remember that list of questions you worked on at the start of the summer? Add those questions as columns on your spreadsheet and track how well you feel the college meets that value. When it comes time to choose the college you’ll attend, having all this information in one document can help streamline your decision.
3. Tap into our expertise.
While each admission officer does work for a specific college, we all work in this profession because we love helping students through this exciting process. Reach out to us, introduce yourself, and let us be an advocate, a guide, and cheerleader for you. We all want you to land at a college where you will thrive, and if we can help you do that by clarifying anything about the college process, connecting you to a current student or faculty member, or answering any of your questions, we will!
My last suggestion for making the most of this summer is to take advantage of information sessions, one-on-one interviews, and college fairs being held in your area. The Colleges That Change Lives will travel to cities across the nation this summer, and this is a great opportunity to learn more about the college search process as well as the CTCL Member Schools.
Get organized now. You’ll thank yourself later!
Mary Randers | she/her
Dean of Admission