Times have changed and getting into college is much different than it was even five years ago. Selecting a college is a big decision, and both public and private schools are more competitive. Going through the college admissions process can seem daunting, especially to seniors who must kick into overdrive to accomplish the tasks associated with a college search and the application process. And, of course, this effort is in addition to academics, sports, volunteerism and jobs.
Our community has fine high schools and counselors. Yet school counselors have their hands full keeping their caseloads on track academically. Essentially it is the responsibility of the student, with support from family, to fully engage in the process of selecting and applying to colleges. Each college a student applies to should be a good fit—one where the student can spend 4 happy and productive years. Here is a check list of some basic tasks to accomplish no later than the fall semester of senior year:
• Complete a college search of “best fit” colleges that include reach, good bets and almost certain to get in options; use the summer months and school breaks to visit college campuses.
• Find out and keep track of deadlines related to what the high school counseling office requires from you in order to send information to colleges (e.g. like your transcript)
• Make an appointment with the school counselor to review college plans and get advice.
• Verify the accuracy of school transcripts and assess eligibility for the University of California (UC) as well as the California State University (CSU) campuses
• Note that the UC and CSU deadline is November 30 th; private school deadlines are typically later
• Complete standardized testing requirements; these tests are best taken once by the end of the junior year; if necessary, register for fall SAT or ACT testing; note that two SAT subject tests in different disciplines are still required by UC for Class of 2011 and 2012.
• Attend talks by college representatives who visit your school next fall, attend college fairs, make campus visits, research college websites and guide books
• Check admission requirements and download and review application forms for colleges that make it to your final list; pay particular attention to essays and short responses that require time and thought
• Ask teachers for recommendations as soon as the list of colleges is finalized (no later than November 1st —busy teachers need time to write recommendations)
• Work with the counseling office to make sure it has what it needs to send off the Secondary School Report and Counselor Letter of Recommendation
• Review essays and personal statements on each application; write drafts and finalize
• Check and apply to appropriate scholarships (schools that have college and career centers post opportunities on a regular basis)
• Understand how these tasks differ for Early Action and Early Decision applicants
Younger high school students and their parents can review this checklist and think about where they will be in the process next year around this time. Start early! Getting all the information, keeping it organized and on track is not a matter of intelligence—it is a matter of time and discipline. Every family with a college bound student needs to decide how to handle the timing and complexities of college admissions. There are many resources at our fine schools and our counselors are first rate. There are excellent books and websites, and good organizational tools (like simple paper folder systems color-coded by topic). With all the resources in our communities, students can stay on track for college!
Elizabeth LaScala, Ph.D. is an educational consultant and certified college admissions advisor. Her goal is to help students and their families understand the admissions process, research college and career options, create a customized college list and submit a strong and cohesive application. She is familiar with local high schools and has guided three daughters through the college admissions process in addition to more than 300 clients. Dr. LaScala is an active member of NACAC, WACAC, and HECA and earned a certification in College Admissions and Career Planning from University of California at Berkeley. Contact her at (925) 891-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.