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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Attention High School Seniors - Top 15 MUST DOs for your College Application
High school seniors, do you know what time it is? It's time to kick-start the college admissions process! Take it from the 'real' experts…first-year college freshmen. When I asked them before class yesterday what advice they would give to high school seniors who were staring down the 'admissions tunnel', they unanimously agreed: "Start now! Don't wait!", chimed one from Maryland. Another (from New Jersey) said, "Don't wait until the last minute to write essays!" And yet another (from Connecticut, I think) yelled, "Make sure you stay organized and keep track of what each college wants because it seems to be different for EVERY, SINGLE school." I could sense some frustration in that last response.

Unanimously--and rather unceremoniously--they all agreed that it's best NOT to procrastinate when it comes to admissions 'stuff'. With that said, I thought it might be a good idea to provide you with a timeline. Now, if you're among the rare few who have already organized your stuff, visited campuses, written rough drafts of your essays, requested letters of recommendation, and written a resume, then you're in the clear. For the rest of you (most of you, I assume), let's hope this puts it into perspective and gives you a bit of inspiration.

September & October:
• If you are planning to take (or re-take) the SAT (including subject tests) and/or ACT, then now is the time to register. Check the dates and register in advance. There's no point in paying late fees. Info can be found at Also make sure you request that scores be sent directly to your colleges.
• Start working on a resume. Be sure to include your class statistics (rank, GPA, etc), a list of clubs and/or sports, your work experience, special projects, awards/honors. No need to include all of the information that can be found on a transcript. Get some advice from a guidance counselor, parent, or teacher.
• Do a bit of review work for the SAT/ACT. There are lots of great books out there to help you get some practice. You might also want to consider registering for a review course.
• Make sure you are aware of deadlines for each college. If you are planning to apply under the early decision/early action option, be sure that you know the deadlines and understand the commitment.
• If you haven't already done so, visit college campuses to see whether they are the 'right fit' for you. Most students say that they "just knew" as soon as they visited.
• Start working on those college admissions essays and personal statements. These DO make an impression, so you want to leave plenty of time to have someone look them over for you. Poor proofreading, lack of focus/organization, inconsistent grammar and punctuation, and lousy sentence construction all make a negative impression. You want to make the admissions committee think, "We've got to get this kid on campus!"
• Ask appropriate teachers/counselors/others to write letters of recommendation on your behalf. Be sure to give them a copy of your resume…and make sure they are aware of your deadlines. Also…give them plenty of time. Frustration sets in easily when students approach teachers at the last minute.
• Request transcripts!
• Begin researching scholarship opportunities. This can be a daunting process. You will need to fill out applications, write essays, and possibly even attend an interview. Best to start EARLY!

November & December:
• Polish your essays!
• Ask recommenders whether they have sent your letters.
• Look over your applications carefully. Many colleges encourage electronic submissions, but this is no excuse for poor proofreading. Ask someone to have a look before you hit that 'send button'.
• Pick up FAFSA forms from your guidance department. There is a lot of required information that your parents will need to provide assistance with. For more information, go to
• If you are applying for scholarships, start writing those essays and requesting letters of recommendation, if necessary. You should keep an organized list that includes requirements and due dates.
• Finally, check to see whether your colleges have received all of the components of your application. If you've submitted online, then there is likely a link where you can check the status of your application. If you've done it the 'old-fashioned' way, then it might be a good idea to call the Admissions Office to check.

Good luck with it all. The process is enough to drive even the calmest, most organized person a little insane. But with some forethought and preparedness, you'll survive.


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