By: Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed.
Hello, high school students! I am writing to you from the Toronto airport on my way to Oxford for part of my graduate studies program there. Sometimes we love college so much, that we are willing to fly halfway around the globe to get there! OK, Team CollegeMapper, it’s November, and that means that Seniors are really in the thick of applications now. Check your CollegeMapper timeline to see the full list of your tasks for this month.
November 1 is one of the biggest deadlines of the entire college admissions year—Early Decision and Early Action applications are (mostly all) due on 11/1. Congrats to those of you who made it in time for that deadline, and let’s get organized for the rest of Fall!
If you did apply ED or EA (which I recommend) then there are still things you need to do. Make sure your best test scores have been sent to your colleges. Make sure your rec letters have been received. Make sure your transcripts from your high school (and any colleges you attended) have also been received. If any of these pieces is missing, your app will be considered incomplete and will be thrown out or rolled into the regular pool.
If you applied ED you can still apply EA to schools that offer it. Many colleges set 11/15 as their EA deadline. Remember, EA is not binding like ED, and you can do EA to multiple colleges, unlike ED which you can just do at one.
If you did not apply ED or EA, then you are probably focusing on finishing up your essays now. You will need to decide which test scores are your best, and send those to all of your colleges now. If you are testing in November or December, check with your colleges to be sure they accept those late test dates. Many will; some won’t.
Be sure to run the Net Price Calculator on each college’s website and enter the number into your Financial Aid tracker page on CollegeMapper. This will help you keep track of which college will cost you what and will help you compare apples to apples once all of the financial aid offers are in.
Order your transcripts from your high school now, and be sure your two teachers have written your rec letters. THANK your teachers and give them a small gift (Barnes and Noble or Starbucks cards are great) because they are not paid to write these letters on your behalf.
Have a teacher or trusted friend or mentor look over your essays. English teachers are available for essay editing on the CollegeMapper website under Resources. Be sure that you also have someone look over each application before you submit it since these apps and essays are your one shot to sell your four years of hard work. They need to be polished!
Set up any interviews that you possibly can, and continue to attend the college rep visits at your high school and in your city. I have posted handouts on both of these topics in the CollegeMapper Resources section.
Try to have all apps submitted before Thanksgiving and certainly before 12/15.
Now you have to cross your fingers and wait patiently. Some of your colleges will let you know in December, and some not until April. And everything in between. No one should pressure you to decide until May 1, which is the national declaration date in the US. You must declare by May 1 or you will lose your spot. Best of luck to you all as you apply this month! Remember that the UC apps are all due 11/30, as are many state schools apps like the University of Washington and the University of Texas.
OK Juniors, you should be doing your test prep now and working on your college list on CollegeMapper. You want to have your test prep completed in November or December so that you can start testing in December or January. Register for your tests now so that you can be sure to get the testing center near your house and not have to drive two hours!
You can start going on some campus visits if you like, when you are ready. I have posted a handout on this in the Resources section of CollegeMapper.
Continue to work on your Resume of activities, and be sure that you keep doing things you did in years past, to show commitment. Junior year is the year you should focus on lining up a little leadership for next year, if you can. It really helps. Some ideas for leadership are: coach, mentor, club officer, newspaper editor, captain, class officer, peer mentor, tutor, club founder, section leader, etc.
As you can probably tell from the size of the “Senior” section in this article, it’s kind of all about the Seniors right now, but in just a couple of months, it’s all gonna be about you Juniors! So be patient with your school counselor and stay out of her way as much as you can since she’s swamped with helping Seniors on applications right now.
Juniors, get your best grades EVER this year. Colleges really look closely at your Junior year grades because you don’t get Senior year grades before you apply. Buckle down and make it count! Head in the game, team!!
Sophomores and Freshmen:
Focus on getting the best grades you can because your GPA of 9th and 10th grade is largely the GPA you apply to college with. You can do this! College is SO worth it! It’s life changing and awesome and F-U-N!!
Get those great grades because grades equal cash. The better your grades, the more scholarship money the colleges will give you. And everyone wants money to help pay for college, so start working on yours now.
Kids always ask me (when they are Seniors usually) how they can apply for scholarships. Remember, the truth is that about 6% of kids get private scholarships and those are usually for like one or two thousand dollars. BUT, 86% of kids get merit money from the college they attend, and that can be anywhere from 5-50K!
Also, do some volunteering starting now so that you can volunteer at the same place for all 4 years of high school, which just looks awesome and is also awesome for you. Pick an area of society that really makes you angry or sad (kids with cancer, lonely elderly people, etc.) and spend your time there. That way you will not feel like you are just doing something because you have to; you will enjoy being and working at a place where you are making a difference for a problem that matters to you. Volunteering is just plain good for you, too. It gets you out of your own life and problems for a while and lets you help other people.
This is ALWAYS beneficial for your heart and mind, just as much as it is beneficial for the people you are serving. Get out there and care somewhere!
Well kids, that’s the State of the Union. And speaking of official Federal things, CollegeMapper was invited to the White House to present at Education Datapalooza on October 9! It was an exciting honor to be there and to meet so many people who are excited about making higher education accessible to everyone!