Updated: Oct 29, 2019
One solid piece of advice I like to offer is - start the college application process early and be extremely organized. There are so many avenues of research and action for the application process that making an overall game plan as early as possible can streamline the whole experience. Teens and families should start thinking about college during freshman year, while the actual applications should be completed the summer after junior year. Follow along below to learn about my suggested timeline for those important high school years!
Students need to meet with their counselors to make sure they are taking the right courses for the colleges that they want to apply for.
Even if they don’t know the college, at least make sure the classes they are enrolled in count for college credit or make sense for the type of career goal they might have. I can’t tell you how many students have told me they took the wrong classes and figured it out too late.
Some colleges do not count 9th-grade GPA and if they do, it is weighted the least. Taking one hard class this year is not a huge gamble because a C is better in 9th grade than in 10th grade. 10th and 11th grade GPA is what most colleges look for on applications.
Begin extracurriculars in 9th grade that will continue over the next four years. Colleges love to follow through and look for a sense of identity and direction evident from long term dedication to an activity.
The most important focus during sophomore year is GPA. Most people don’t realize that not all colleges look at your freshman year GPA, but begin with sophomore year grades.
Look into scholarships at the federal, state and school levels. The key is for students to find their own niche, because there are scholarships for everyone out there. Hiring a professional to help can ultimately save students (and their parents) tens of thousands of dollars.
This is the year before the storm of standardized tests and applications. It is important to capitalize on this “free time” with college visits to solidify a list of prospective schools.
This year is by far the hardest high school year! It is SAT/ACT test time!
Students need to be strategic about the dates they take their tests. I suggest taking a practice test at the beginning of the year as a practice run to see how it feels and to determine which aspects of the test need improvement.
Students should anticipate to earn their highest score in May or June because finals are at that time of the year which means Math and English will be fresh in their mind and at its peak.
Students should not plan to take the test in May if they are enrolled in AP classes. It will be too much stress. That is a guarantee.
There are summer test dates offered now, but I do not recommend this for students unless they put in the time to prepare over the summer. It is easier to take the SAT/ACT tests during the school year with Math and English fresh in their mind than during or after summer vacation.
Also, students can not forget to maintain their GPA this year. Colleges like to see a decent 9th-grade GPA that improves consistently over 10th and 11th grade. 11th-grade should academically be their best year.
Leadership is a must for college applications! Students should start a club this year. The title of President or Founder of a club and looks great on an application. At the very least, students need to maintain their extracurriculars from freshman year.
This is when the college applications get REAL! Stay on top of deadlines.
Try to have SAT/ACT tests done before starting senior year. Students are in a good place if they are coming into senior year only having to focus on college application submission guidelines and deadlines.
There are only three test dates in the Fall (October, November, and December) that qualify for the senior year application cycle, which increases stress to achieve results in a short amount of time.
Many colleges place applications on hold as they wait for SAT/ACT scores to be turned in.
A perfect college application consists of all necessary test receipts, grade transcripts recommendations (if applicable), and a checklist of leadership (and other unique) qualities that make the applicant a no brainer.
General Hacks and Tips
I like to tell my students every summer to write a diary entry about pivotal moments in their school year so they remember the moments that shape them. College personal statements are about communicating what the application doesn’t tell the university about you. These reflections are essential to write powerful and honest personal statements.
Personal statements illustrate how a student will not fail in college. Students who are deemed good investments have been in leadership roles, have triumphed over adversity, represent a diverse group that is needed at college, and demonstrate how they won't fail.
Organization is essential to the application process. Create a spreadsheet and make sure to write out the deadlines because every college is different.
The spreadsheet needs to include what each application requires, i.e., transcripts, financial aid, application, scores receipts, recommendations, username, and password information. ←---write down that password! Every app is different and you will get locked out!
If students start the application process late, everything will be a time crunch. There will be pressure to land test scores over a three month period in the fall of senior year, but it can be turned into manageable chunks through time management and organization.
I hope this helps you find your way through high school and into college. For more advice, follow the link and set up a free consultation today!