By Mary Ann Willis
3,2,1 … It’s here! Graduation and then college are right around the corner, so share these 10 steps with your teen.
10. Plan a Visit
No matter where you are going to apply, make sure you visit the college—in person or virtually. Too many students take the material in the college’s marketing brochures as gospel. Don’t forget: Colleges want you to apply and want you to attend. They are selling themselves to you. All those pretty pictures and nice words are good if and only if they are relevant to making a solid match between you and the college. Would you buy a car without a test drive? Would you not look into all the details before purchasing a house? A college education at many places costs more than a car, and some schools now top the $200,000 figure for purchase price for four years. That is serious money in anyone’s checkbook. So visit the school and find a place where you’ll be happy; and come out with the skills you’ll need to get a job or go on to professional or graduate school.
9. Don’t Wait Start Now
Time and procrastination are your worst enemies. Select where you want to apply, then visit and do the paperwork. Students limit their own options by putting off the paperwork. Caveat: Poor planning on your part does not necessarily constitute an emergency on your counselor’s part or on the part of the college. Too many people do the paperwork right to make exceptions for those who don’t. By the way, most applications are now completed online. Servers crash. Waiting to the last minute complicates things.
Parents should think about writing brag letters for the adviser assisting you with the college admissions process. Parents love having the opportunity to tell someone how wonderful their child is, and it is to your advantage to let them do this so your counselor can enhance their letters of recommendation with information about you that they might otherwise miss.
7. Create a Resume
You are responsible for writing your resume. Then, make a copy and give it to your college counselor. Use forms that are clear, concise and truly show the breadth and depth of your involvement for activities in and out of school. Follow your adviser guidelines. Longer is not better. Both your adviser and the admissions committees at various colleges have very little time to review your resume, so a clear presentation is essential.
6. Show Interest
College reps may visit your high school; make sure you are there to meet them. Demonstrated interest can be a factor in admissions at some colleges. Evening programs and college fairs may be available to you. It is a big mistake not to take every opportunity to get information at these events. You may learn about new colleges or find critical information on schools you are already considering. The more information you have, the better armed you are to make appropriate decisions for yourself.
5. Write On
Essays give students, counselors, parents and admissions reps nightmares. This is not because they are that hard to write or even take that much time. Yet, they are the hardest thing to drag out of students! “On Writing the College Application Essay” by Harry Bauld is a good guide to the process. This book has some great advice and samples of what types of essays work. However, the soundest essay advice of all is simply to be yourself, find your own voice, and write about what is important to you. If the essay you write puts you to sleep, what impact do you think it will have on a rep who has been reading several hundred a night? Essays should be conversational. Let the real you show through all the paperwork.
4. Know Your Adviser
Spend time with your college adviser. Talk to him or her about your hopes and dreams, what is important to you. This will help your counselor help you plot a course for college selection. Don’t think “I want to go to college x.” Think about what a college needs to have to be a good match for you, and then go out and find colleges with those attributes.
3. Take the Tests
Make sure that you have taken all the required tests. Remember some places are formula schools. They require a certain GPA and test score for a clear admit. Some are fine tooth-comb schools. They read all the lines of your application and everything in between the lines! So give colleges what they need, or they’ll go on to the next application. Some schools no longer require these tests, and some colleges offer test-optional admissions.
See www.fairtest.org for more information.
2. Keep Good Records
Ancient college counselor proverb: He who does not keep copies of all materials runs the risk of huge problems. The great blue mail box, admissions office student assistants, college computers or online admissions gremlins occasionally “eat” parts of applications. You may get an urgent call for a back-up copy. Be ready.
1. Be the Best You
Get it done in and out of the classroom. Take care of all application materials, keep up with your schoolwork, and extracurricular activities. Real work in and out of class can make a huge difference. The goal is to have options in April. Impact players, people who have made their school and activities better as a result of their presence, will have the most options, if, and only if, they’ve done all their research and homework about the process.
Now, blast off! If you’ve hunted for the schools that are good matches for you, you’ll succeed. Have a terrific and successful year.
A Word of Caution:
Use your legal name on every piece of paper you submit. If you use your full name on part of the application, your nickname on another part and your first and middle initials plus your last name on yet another application piece, you could could end up with three different admissions files, one for each version of your name. Remember — College admissions offices deal with tons of information. A well-crafted application can be a major distinguishing factor.
Editors Note: Part of this piece appeared in COLLEGE BOUND: Issues and Trends for the College Admissions Adviser; www.collegeboundnews.com . Reprinted in part, with permission, www.collegeboundnews.com