When applying to competitive colleges, every aspect of your application is carefully scrutinized. We’ve interviewed several admission officers during the pandemic and asked them what they look for in students. All said the same thing: They are looking for students who step up and make a difference (even a small one) in their community.Read More
ACT & SAT Prep and College Admissions Blog
You may have heard it said before that applying to college is a “process,” and it really is. Additionally, every student’s process is different. However, there are some typical stages a student may go through to find their ideal college, and in this blog we outline them for you.
We recommend that students seriously begin the college process during their junior year. If students or families are college-focused, there are things freshman and sophomores can do, but they mostly revolve around earning strong grades and getting involved in activities. Toward the middle of junior year, students can kick- off the college process by determining what qualities they want in an ideal college. Students should consider size, location, major, and other factors to create an initial list of schools.
During the next stage of the process, students will research potential colleges online, in books, through campus visits and other ways. By learning more about colleges, students can determine which schools they really like and which ones they don’t. They can also determine which criteria are more important than others (ie, “It’s really important to me that the school has an equestrian program, so I’ll look at schools smaller than I initially wanted.”) During this stage, it’s important that students verbalize their goals and be realistic about their expectations. It’s also helpful when families plan college visits and attend college-sponsored information sessions.
When it comes time to apply to colleges, the stress level can be at an all-time high. Deadlines, essays, resumes, interviews... the list goes on and it can be a lot for a student to manage alone. Parents, school counselors, admission counselors and college counselors are all helpful resources to help students during this time.
At some point, hopefully earlier rather than later, families need to have a conversation about the cost of college and how to pay for it. Honesty is the best policy; parents should let students know what their realistic options are. Students may need to add less expensive colleges to the list, apply to schools where they are likely to receive a grant, and/or apply for scholarships.
The final stage of the process is usually the favorite one, but it doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Once a student has (hopefully) a few acceptances to various colleges, the family needs to sit down and weigh the pros and cons of each school. Sometimes it’s an easy decision, but occasionally it’s really difficult. Families need to have these discussions and come up with a decision that everyone is happy with.
SUMMER BEFORE SENIOR YEAR
- Take the ACT/SAT
- Take time this summer to volunteer or shadow a professional
- Go on campus visits to start narrowing down your college list
- Get started on Common App Essay* (brainstorm, outline, drafts)
- Create a college list taking into consideration: academics, graduation rate, majors, size, location, school resources, campus life.
- Be sure to apply to at least 4 schools. Your college list should include at least:
- 1 Safety school (a college you’re confident that you can get into)
- 2 Good Fits (colleges that you’re pretty sure you can get into)
- 1 Reach (a college you have a chance of getting into, but it’s a stretch)
Better organization skills can benefit almost anyone in any stage or area of their life.
When some people hear the word organization their first thought is about home organization and a big box store specializing in ridiculously overpriced closet-systems. There are others who seem to find happiness in staying organized; these are the folks who are constantly making lists and crossing things off of them.
For students, developing organizational skills is inherent to achieving academic success whether as a high school freshman studying for final exams for the first time, or a junior taking the first steps in the college admissions process. Applying to college can be particularly overwhelming due to the numerous requirements and deadlines. This process takes place simultaneously with taking AP Exams and working to maintain your GPA among feelings of “senioritis.”Read More
In a recent guest post for the College Solution, we showed how Indiana University has a simple automatic scholarship system to attract top students that might otherwise choose more highly ranked schools. This system is based on an assessment of GPA and ACT score. For certain students, it provides an automatic $11,000 per year scholarship, making IU much more affordable than it otherwise would be. So, I argued that, even if you already have a high ACT score, it could make sense to hire an ACT tutor and try to squeeze out another point, which would bump you into the $11,000 automatic scholarship range, and may impact which school you choose to attend.
In this post, with the implications of part 1 in mind (i.e., significant reduction in the cost of attending IU) I’ll illustrate the potential decision faced by a high school senior from Illinois considering five schools:
If you're a college senior or junior, then you probably know that many colleges offer an early application option. There are two main types of early options: early action and early decision. The deadlines for these applications are usually in late October or early November, so now if you are a senior in college now is the time to make the move! For juniors or underclassmen, keep this in mind for the future.