Since this blog is titled, "Thinking About College," I figured it would be the perfect platform for addressing WHEN to start thinking about college.
For the rising senior?
Now. Now is the time to start thinking about college. The clock is ticking, my friends. Managing your time is essential to the success of your application process. An added bonus to learning about time management now is that it will set you up for success for years to come. You will use it in college, in the workplace, and in your personal life.
Here is what you can do in summer:
1. Research colleges (online, visit, ask friends and family, etc.) and make a tentative college list. Be realistic. Select colleges you know are a suitable fit. This means that based on your GPA and test scores (assuming you have taken the SAT or ACT), your profile is similar to the college's profile of accepted applicants. Note: If you have not taken standardized tests, use your summer to study and plan on taking them in the early fall semester. Register online as soon as possible, as test dates will fill up quickly.
2. Make a list of your extracurricular activities. You will want to include activities that cover your high school career. Be sure to include in what grade(s) you participated, the time commitment, a description of your activity, and any award or accomplishment received. For example, Co-Founder and signature collector for, "Students Anti-Bullying Pledge Club" 9th, 10th, 11th 12th, 5 hours per week, one month per semester. Generated signatures each semester of students on campus who pledged to not bully their peers and to help remind others to also not bully.
3. Determine which two teachers, preferably from junior year and who teach a core subject, you will ask to write your letters of recommendation. Research in advance just what information your teachers will ask of you and prepare it for them. For example, a teacher might ask for your college list, a draft of an essay you are preparing for your application, and a list of extracurricular activities. Some teachers have a specific form they will ask you to complete. Do so thoroughly and in a timely manner. Remember, this is YOUR application process. Your teachers are graciously taking time out of their busy schedules to write a letter on your behalf. Be sure to thank them and be accommodating.
4. Start writing. Hands down, the most time-consuming part of the college application process is writing. When developing your essay, plan on writing several drafts before it is "submit ready." And most importantly, write about areas of yourself that you are most proud of or are excited about. The buzz word is "passion." Let the reader (the Admissions Officer) learn about who you are in your own words. It's not often you get to write about yourself, so enjoy re-discovering who you are and what makes you tick.
The 2014-2015 University of California essay prompts: http://admission.universityofcalifornia.edu/how-to-apply/personal-statement/index.html
The Common Application: https://appsupport.commonapp.org/link/portal/33011/33013/Article/1694/2014-15-Common-Application-Essay-Prompts
5. You can also use the summertime to complete your college application profiles.
- The California State University's CSU Mentor www.csumentor.edu allows you to complete the High School Planner prior to the application becoming available. And, that information will roll over into your application (don't forget your user name and password and use your transcript for accuracy!).
- If you are applying to the UCs, visit https://admissions.universityofcalifornia.edu/ to set up your account prior to the November deadline.
- You can get a head start on The Common Application www.commonapp.org, which is used by over 500 colleges and universities.
If you are able to get the ball rolling on these five areas this summer, you will set yourself up for a successful fall semester and college application process. Remember to break up the application into projects (bullet point #1, bullet point #2, etc.) to make it feel less overwhelming and more manageable.
I will continue to answer the question of "When to start thinking about college?" to other grade levels in later posts.