Your September College To Do List

Students working on college applicationsBy: Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed.
It is officially Back to School!  How exciting!  And the college admissions cycle is in full swing for you Seniors.  I will outline the basics of what each grade needs to be focusing on right now; for the full list for your grade, log onto  (It’s free!). Here’s the rundown for everybody in high school:
Seniors:  This is it! You can do it. Follow the CollegeMapper to do list and work steadily along.  Aim to be done with all of your applications by Thanksgiving.  Have your college list final (and balanced!) now. See the CollegeMapper “Colleges” page for tips on balancing, and to see your chances of acceptance at each college. Finish up any last minute testing you may need to do, like SAT Subject Tests. Line up your rec letters, and make sure your transcript has no errors on it—now!  Also, check the 3 posts on the CollegeMapper blog on the Common Application. I give you ten years of amazing tips in one blog post called “Bulletproof Your Common App”. Get great grades because many of your colleges will ask to see your January grades and some will ask to see your June grades.  You need to start ALL of your college essays this month, and do plan to apply Early Action or Early Decision because it helps so much.
Juniors:  Things start to happen now. You should be actively prepping for the SAT/ACT, and schedule your first test dates for Nov-Jan, but not later than that. Then see which one you do better on and take that one again in Feb-April. You do not need to send both; all colleges accept either one, so send your best only! Prep for SAT Subject Tests in May/June if you plan to take any. Target two teachers whom you will ask for rec letters for college at the end of the year. Be an absolute angel all year!  Narrow your college list, visit some campuses, move toward doing some leadership, and above all else—get your best grades ever this year!!
Sophomores:  Everything that I listed for freshmen, read that because it applies to you, but also, remember to do everything in your power to protect your GPA. It doesn’t need to be a 4.0, but get it certainly over 3.0 and over 3.5 is best. Do your personal best; don’t be lazy or crazy, just do your personal best.  Focus your community service on something compassionate, not on your sport. And try to continue some activities from last year so you can have things on your resume that say 4 years. Finally, if you are taking any AP classes this year (which is rare), perhaps consider taking the SAT Subject Test in that area in May or June.
Freshmen:  Get involved in some clubs, and really target community service. Now is the time to branch out and try new sports and activities!  The high school offers so many great options, like band, debate, newspaper…you name it!  Don’t be shy.  Get in there and get involved.  The happiest kids are the kids who are active in school activities.  Also, for college, get the best grades you can this year because freshman year grades “set” your GPA.  It is much easier to protect a high GPA than it is to pull up a low one, so set yours as high as you can and then you’ll have a little cushion later when things get tough (Junior year).
If you have any questions, post them to me in the CollegeMapper Forum.  I answer kids’ questions for free.  We also have English teachers who will give you feedback on your essays if you would like it, at Stay tuned for the October installment and have a fabulous school year, you guys!!


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