Your child’s junior year is coming to close, the finish line is in sight. She’s almost a senior! She’s worked long and hard to get to this point, and will finally experience what it’s like to be at the top of the high school food chain. Senior-year perks and privileges will include senior pictures, senior trips, the prom, graduation, and sometimes even a lighter class load. It’s also time to begin applying to college. But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
Educational Consultant and School Choice Expert Barb Leventhal says that although senior year is likely to be your teen’s most enjoyable one yet, it’s definitely not the time for them to rest on their laurels.
“When it comes to the college application process, there’s much to be done,” she said. “But if you start early, stay organized, and take it step by step, you’ll be on track for an amazing senior year and a promising academic future.”.
As a parent, you likely have questions like, “How long will it take my teen to apply to 10 colleges?,” and “What can I do to keep my college-bound student on track?”
Don’t stress – we’re here to help with this list of tasks that your incoming senior should complete this summer, starting…NOW.
Create a Calendar
As a first step, create a monthly calendar to track the tasks that your teen should accomplish. Work closely with him or her to make sure they’re getting everything done, and celebrate the progress as you check each completed item off the calendar.
Because we live in the digital age, some parents and students may not want to print mountains of paperwork. However, it’s important to keep track of all the information you generate and gather. Create a digital folder using an app like Google Drive. Alternatively, you can use traditional file folders if you prefer hard copies.
Whichever method you choose, create a filing system that works for you. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Individual Folders for Each College: Stay organized! Create folders for each college you apply to. Inside each, you’ll want to include:
- A copy of your completed common app
- Copies of individual school applications, including essays
- A copy of your final résumé
- A copy of each submission confirmation
- Receipts confirming payments (application fees, housing deposits, etc.)
- Copies of all correspondence with the school, including communications from professors or other representatives
- Copies of all other forms submitted
- Appointment information for your college visit
- Notes from your college visit
- Contact information for the local rep for each college, as well as for anyone you met during your visit (professors, admissions counselors, tour guides…)
Testing and Transcripts Folder: This is where you’ll keep test-related information such as test payment receipts, testing admission tickets, test result reports, transcripts, and a copy of your Self-Reported Academic Record (SSAR)
Financial Aid/Scholarships Folder: This folder contains all of your finance and scholarship-related information including a copy of your FAFSA or CSS Profile, a copy of your Florida Bright Futures application if applicable, scholarship applications and related essays, your Student Aid Report (SAR) confirmation and a copy of any submitted financial forms submitted.
Lay the Groundwork
Take the SAT and/or ACT this summer if you haven’t already. If you have, take it again if you believe there’s room for improvement. Be sure to prepare in advance because if you take it again without further preparation, you’ll likely achieve the same score. You can prepare with online study guides, test prep books, and at local educational and test prep centers like Score at The Top. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Get Involved: As you build your college résumé, get involved with activities that demonstrate passion, talent, initiative, and leadership. If you can’t find a suitable high school club, create one and recruit others to join. Summer break is also a good time to volunteer or gain valuable work experience. For example, you might obtain leadership experience as a summer camp counselor, complete service projects for Scouting or other non-profit organizations, or participate in other activities that will fuel your passions and bolster your résumé.
Community Service Hours: Don’t forget to earn – and log – all of your high school community service hours that meet and preferably exceed your volunteer requirements for graduation and Bright Futures. Submit them to your guidance counselor as you earn them – don’t wait to turn them in all at once.
Start Researching Your Colleges: There are many things to think about when choosing a college. Start by creating a well-researched list of schools that meet your needs. Be sure to consider things like the college size, your potential major, cost, campus life and culture, the college town, and other factors important to you. Check out resources like Picking Your Best-Fit Colleges to help you create your list.
Review Your Transcripts: Make sure your high school transcripts are in order by carefully verifying the accuracy of your list of classes, grades, credit hours, test scores, and other information.
Create Accounts on Both The Common App and the Coalition App: Don’t begin the specific essays, as they will be updated this coming August. For now, simply fill in the student and family sections to establish your account. That’s a decent chunk of the application.
Visit Colleges (in person when possible, virtually if necessary): Now’s the time to plan college campus tours. Tours allow you to experience campus life - you can often even sit in on a class or two. You can also use information from the tour to write your Why This College? essay. Be sure to schedule your visits online or by contacting the college admissions department to ensure the college is aware you’re visiting. This shows that you’re interested in the school, which leads us to our next tip.
Demonstrate Interest: How critical is “Demonstrated Interest’ for college admissions?: Demonstrating interest in a variety of ways can help increase your chances by getting you noticed and establishing that you’re passionate about attending the college. At a recent Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) conference, an admissions representative from Haverford College made it clear that they greatly value demonstrated interest.
Follow the college on social media and be sure your teen opens all emails from the college. Apply early! Build relationships with your local admissions representatives, professors, and current students. For example, if your son plays the trumpet, have him reach out to the trumpet professor to see if he offers lessons or would be willing to meet with your son to discuss the music program. Demonstrating interest will help you stand out from a sea of applicants.
Don’t Trash It: Some colleges may request samples of your junior year written work, so keep a few examples of your favorite, highest-graded expository and analytical written work – in case you need it.
You’re Not Alone
The college application process can be daunting and overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make sure your teen works closely with his or her teachers and guidance counselor. For even greater peace of mind, many people find it beneficial to work with a professional educational consultant/college counselor.
Leventhal, who works with Score at The Top Learning Centers and Schools/JRA Educational Consulting, says college counselors are seasoned professionals who help students create a balanced list of colleges, determine an application strategy, work on applications and essays, and – ultimately – get accepted into their best-fit colleges.
“An independent educational consultant keeps current on changes to the admission process and visits college campuses every year,” she said. “We work with students on every facet of the admission process – from start to finish – and we keep them focused and on track. We hold students accountable, which makes the application process much less stressful for the whole family.”
Experts agree that reducing application-related stress by proper planning and execution is crucial. In response, Score at The Top offers a college admissions boot camp to give students a head start on their application process. The boot camp, conceived by JRA and Score founder Judi Robinovitz, will be led by JRA consultants Barb Leventhal, and Kathy Hart. Sessions will be conducted both in-person at a Florida high school and in real-time virtual meetings via Zoom.
Students will work with seasoned professionals to create a balanced college list, write a draft of their personal statement, receive feedback from essay specialists, prepare their SSAR, write a preliminary résumé and activity list, and work on the various remaining sections of their applications. Students will also practice asking and answering questions for interviews and college visits. They’ll learn the secrets from experienced counselors about how to ask for and get strong teacher recommendations.
Kathy Hart says that students who complete the homework and classwork will leave boot camp with a substantial amount of work done toward the completion of the Common App. They will be ready to submit applications on or before the deadlines.
“Students will work with experienced college advisors and essay specialists to write attention-grabbing essays, complete their common application, and create a top-notch college résumé,” she said. “They’ll leave boot camp way ahead of the game so that they can enjoy their senior year without stressing about the complex college application process.”
Keep watching for more college admissions prep tips to stay on track this summer and beyond!
For additional information about the Score at the Top Ninth Annual College Admissions Boot Camp, held in five sessions beginning August 3, 2022 (at Suncoast High School and via Zoom), visit www.suncoastbootcamp.com or call us. We’ve helped thousands of students get into their best-fit colleges – and we can help you.