So You’re Starting Your College Apps in November

iStock_000007156891XSmallSo you are starting your college applications in November?  Never fear, here’s the list of exactly what you need to do to achieve that goal.  You can do this; no worries.  You’ll need to be focused, so let’s get started.
1.  Determine your list of schools
Make sure you have 2 Safety schools (you know you can get in), 2 Match schools (you have a 50/50 chance of getting in) and at least 1 Reach school (you have a 30% or less chance of getting accepted). You can view all of your admissions chances right on CollegeMapper, on your college list, and see the Scattergrams of which students the school is accepting.
2.  Be sure each college offers 2 majors you are interested in.
Check this by going on their website and looking at the list of undergraduate majors offered.  If the school doesn’t offer your programs, then why apply?  (If you need help figuring out what to major in, you can do the mini Career Quiz on CollegeMapper, under My Goals.)
3.  Figure out the due dates for the applications
Make a list of the final due dates for each application, and also note if they have any early due dates.  If you can meet any of the early deadlines it shows great interest, so try.  It also helps you for scholarship money if you get your app in earlier.  Try to have all of your apps in before 12/15, for best results and most scholarship potential.
4.  Are they Common App schools or do the schools have their own apps on their own websites?
On your college list mark the schools that use the Common App and the schools that use their own application.  For Common App schools refer to our blog posts on how to navigate and master that beast.  For non-Common App schools, you just need to create an account and follow the instructions.
 5.  Make a list of all essays you need to write.
Try to recycle as much as possible, but always be careful to change names/proper nouns within pieces.  Be careful to note the difference between word limits and character limits.  Character limits always means characters with spaces!
6.  Send your best test scores to all of your colleges ASAP
Send these today because it can take 2-3 weeks for them to get to the colleges.  You send them on the CollegeBoard website (for SAT) or the ACT website; send them directly to the colleges.  Merely stating your scores on the applications is not the same as paying for CollegeBoard or ACT to send them to the colleges.  Yes, this also costs, so if you need fee waivers, talk to your counselor at school or contact the CollegeBoard or ACT.
7.  Ask your teachers for Rec Letters
Do this tomorrow at school, to give the teachers as much time as possible.  Ask Junior year teachers in Core subjects (math, science, history, English) preferably, because they had you for a full year.  In a pinch you can ask sophomore year teachers.
8.  Order your high school transcripts to be sent to all of your colleges now
Your high school has a process for this, so go to the counseling office and ask what you need to do.  Go ahead and do it now, to get the process going, because it can take a while.  If costs of transcripts is a problem for you, do not be shy about telling your counselor.  They will help you.
9.  Work on editing your essays
Be sure you are answering the actual question.  This sounds basic but I find that nearly 30% of the time, kids aren’t.  It’s easy to just start writing and get way off track, so check carefully and even ask a teacher to check with you.  Having someone else look over your essays is really important, because no one can be their own editor.
 10.  Fill in the info on the actual applications and SUBMIT!
I put this task last because it’s the easiest to do and kids often start this one because it makes them feel busy and good, but that’s actually sort of procrastination.  Do the long-term and tougher stuff first, because entering app data is easy.  Have someone check over your app for correctness and completion, and then submit!  If you are using a fee waiver from school, get that info from your counselor.  Otherwise you’ll need a credit card to pay the fee.  If the fee poses a problem for you, call the college and tell them.  They will usually help you out!
11.  Verify that each app is complete
This is REALLY important.  After you apply, each college will send you a new link to their website, with a new user ID and a password where you can log in and check the status of your application.  Check your email daily until this email arrives, and then when it does, log in and be sure the college has received everything.  If your app is missing a piece it will not be read; it will be thrown out and you will never even get a rejection letter, so be sure the app is complete.  If something is missing, do not panic or be rude, just calmly contact the college and ask how they would like you to submit that missing piece. ( This is why you don’t want to be doing this over Christmas vacation–because if something goes wrong, no one is in the college office over Christmas break.)
12.  Give your teachers a thank you card
Be sure to thank each teacher with a card or even a small gift because it takes them 1-2 hours to do your letter and they are not paid to do it.  The do these letters on Friday and Saturday nights, out of the kindness of their hearts, so go back and say thanks!  🙂
And when you’re all done, do something to celebrate!  Applying to college is a lot of hard work, but it is SO worth it.  College is awesome and you are going to be so glad that you went!
Yay, college!


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