- Complete your Common App (www.commonapp.org) and begin/complete any other school-specific applications if you are applying to schools that are not on the CA (Georgetown, U of California schools, UT to name just a few).
- Finalize your application strategy: Will you apply early action? Early decision? Most early deadlines are November 1 or later, but a few schools have mid-October deadlines. Plan to submit all applications well in advance of deadlines.
- Keep writing! If you started essays this summer, you should have quite a few completed by this time. Please do not save essay writing (or any part of this process) for the last minute.
- Meet with your school counselor to discuss your counselor letter, finalize your college list, confirm your teacher recommendations, and go over your application strategy.
- Talk to your letter of recommendation writers and make sure they are aware of your early deadlines.
- If your school hosts a college fair or individual college visits, please attend and meet the reps from the schools on your list. If you have already met them, it is still beneficial to stop by and say hello to demonstrate interest.
- Continue to visit colleges if necessary. Make sure visits are official (sign in at the Admissions Office). Make the most of your visits by talking to professors and students, or sitting in on a class. If you meet someone, get their contact info and send a follow-up email thanking them for their time and reiterating your excitement about the school (if you plan to apply). If you have not done some extended research/outreach for your top choice schools, you are running out of time.
- Remember, if the schools on your list have on-campus or local interviews that are candidate-initiated, you must schedule them. Check the schools on your list. All of this information is provided on schools’ admissions websites.
- Remember to send schools your official test scores (ACT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests) if required when you apply; most schools require official scores. Self-reported scores on applications are not official scores.
- Remember to read the application instructions for the schools on your list!
- If your school hosts a college fair or individual college visits, please attend and meet the reps from the schools that might be on your list.
- Now is the time to plan out the rest of junior year in terms of testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Will you need SAT Subject Tests? How many and which ones? When might you take them? Have you started formal test prep? Now is the time to start.
- Although I do not suggest formally prepping for the PSAT, if you would like to get a sense of what is on the test, you can read more here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10/practice
- Meet with your school guidance counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college and it’s a much more personal letter if you actually know each other. Talk about your plans for this year and next year; let them know about your preliminary college list, any visits you have scheduled, and your testing plan.
- Visit colleges in person. Fall is a great time to visit colleges!
- Visit the websites of the schools you are interested in, and explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major(s) of interest and how the activities you are involved in support these interests. Remember, depth, not breadth of experience, is key. Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but ones that really interest you, where you are involved in a significant way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. You may also want to consider an internship, research position, job shadowing opportunity or part-time employment in an area that interests you. Starting your own club, website, or community service project are also nice options, but keep in mind you don’t need to do it all.
- Have you gotten more involved with any of your extracurricular activities? Look for leadership opportunities in school clubs but consider activities outside of school as well.
Sophomores and Freshmen:
- An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at the majority of colleges. A rigorous course schedule that is in line with your strengths can help demonstrate intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself, and that you are comfortable with hard work. Your number one priority this year should be your grades!
- If you haven’t done so already, get involved in activities inside and outside of school. Seek out opportunities to develop leadership roles. Depth, not breadth of experience, is key. Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but ones that really interest you, where you are involved in a significant way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. You may also want to consider an internship, research position, job shadowing opportunity or part-time employment in an area that interests you. Starting your own club, website, or community service project are also nice options, but keep in mind you don’t need to do it all.
- Many schools allow 10th graders to take a practice PSAT. The experience of taking the PSAT as a sophomore will give you a sense of what to expect on future exams. However, don’t feel like you need to study for this test. It is just practice!
- If you haven’t done so already, schedule a meeting to discuss your high school game plan with your guidance counselor. Your guidance or college counselor will write you a letter of recommendation when it comes time to apply to college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
- One of the biggest factors in strong performance on the verbal portions of the SAT and the ACT is independent reading. Enhancing your skills during high school will not only help you perform better on college entrance exams, but it will also prepare you for success in college and beyond. Regular reading of articles and editorials (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist) in addition to studying vocabulary lists and signing up for “Word/Article/SAT Question of the Day” can have a significant positive impact.
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