As August steadily approaches and the end of summer break is upon us, it is important for rising seniors to keep their college admission game plan in check. For those who have been working on their applications bit by bit over summer, you should be in a good place as the school year begins. However, if you haven’t started thinking about where to apply to colleges or working on building your application, then the time to start is now.
Yes, that’s right, now.
What exactly should you be doing to make the most of August? Well, these five must-dos, for starters:
1. Finalize colleges to which you plan to apply.
Honestly, at this point, you should have a pretty clear idea of where you’d like to apply. For the most diligent students, this list should already be finalized with clearly marked dates for each application deadline. However, if you have been dragging your feet this summer, it is so important to get started on this now. You do not want to begin the school year, a month or two away from deadlines, still determining which colleges would be a right fit. The stress and many choices will ultimately lead to you missing out on good opportunities.
2. Secure recommenders who will write personal and detailed letters.
People who will write your recommendation letters need as much time as possible to write the letters. The earlier you ask them for help the better. If you ask a teacher or mentor a few weeks before the deadline, you can only expect a generic letter, and that will not help your chances of admission; in fact, it could even make them worse. If you find yourself having a hard time choosing a teacher, counselor, coach, or other person who could potentially recommend you, then consider which ones you’ve had the most contact with and send them a brief message saying how they would feel about writing a letter. Keep in mind, writing letters of recommendation is part of their jobs, so they expect students to ask them. You are not at all burdening them!
3. Brainstorm and outline college admission essays.
Remember! The essays are big deal, and the unfortunate reality is that they take a long time to do correctly. Sure, you can bang out a draft of an essay in a night probably, but the strongest essays require hours of drafting and re-drafting. And the strongest essays often lead to the best admission results. Look up the prompts for your respective colleges and start outlining and brainstorming stories you can tell that show you in the best light.
4. Update your resume.
You probably did some really cool stuff over the summer that colleges will want to know about. Now is the time to add that to your resume and continue to develop it in such a way that it tells a story of your growth over high school. Admission officers should see you transitioning from minor or regular-member roles in your freshmen and sophomore years to leadership and complex roles in your junior and senior years. (This is one example of how to “create a story.”)
5. Develop a game plan for how to work on applications during the school year.
Undoubtedly you are going to be working on college admission applications during the fall semester. So make a plan for how you will balance the rigors of your senior year with getting into your dream school. Class work is obviously important, and in most ways, takes precedence, but, to reiterate for the thousandth time, you have to treat your college application materials with utmost importance. Every piece of the puzzle is essential.
Final thoughts . . .
Now you may be thinking that the earlier you submit your materials the better off you are. Statistically, more students who apply to colleges for Early Decision and Early Action and Rolling Admissions have higher acceptance rates. While the number is true, the math is not fully forthcoming. Higher acceptance rates doesn’t necessarily mean that colleges are more lenient earlier in the admission season. Instead, often better students submit earlier applications. What’s the takeaway? Don’t compromise your college application to rush to an early admission. Obviously the most ideal situation would be to have the best application possible in time for early deadlines, but if you find yourself incapable of that, then take a little extra time to refine your materials.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go at this whole ordeal alone. At B2A, we have many counselors and essay specialists who can help you with the application process. Our Gateway program is an all-inclusive package that helps students select colleges, build resumes, talk with recommenders, determine financial aid options, develop essays, and much more. If you don’t require help on all aspects, we also have hourly admission counseling and essay editing services. Either way, we understand that applying to colleges can be daunting, so we want to help you get the most out of the experience with little headache and confusion. If you are not quite sure what you should do, you can always get a free consultation with one of our directors. Let us be your light in August!