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What type of advice do you have for doing college applications effectively?

I am in my second semester of junior year and college applications are around the corner. I was wondering how to do the applications effectively and where they make a lasting impact on the admissions deans.

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Di’s Answer

Great job being proactive! As a junior, your first priority is to keep your grades high. Junior year is one of the most important years in high school. If you do well your junior year, then that indicates that you will do well your senior year, during which college admissions only have one semester of grades. Doing well in your junior year shows college admissions that you are serious about school and will not slack off after you get accepted into college(s).


Another top priority is taking the SAT and achieving a score that is higher than the averages listed for your school(s) of choice. You can visit www.collegeboard.org to find this information. If you haven't taken the SAT yet, then you should take at least a practice test to see where you stand, and study for a few months before registering for the test. Your goal should be to have a score that's higher than average for your school(s) because that will make you stand out from other candidates. If your highest SAT score is below average for your school(s), then consider studying for a few more months, perhaps take a class at or outside of school to improve strategy and timing, and take it again. If your highest SAT is about the same as average for your school(s), then I recommend studying some more and retaking it to improve your application.


Besides involvement in at least one extracurricular activity, your personal statement on your college applications is extremely important. This essay tells admissions about who you are in a way that forms and numbers can't. You can start thinking about it during your junior year or during the summer before senior year, and start drafting it no later than by the time senior year starts. I highly recommend having someone, like an English or history teacher, mentor you through the drafts. Teachers are there to help you and shape you into the best that you can be. They are objective, and generally not as biased as someone like a parent or close family member. I don't recommend having your parents help you with your essay because your parents are too close to the source. They love you, they want you to succeed, so they are usually not as objective as someone like a teacher. I asked my sophomore year English teacher to help me on my essay. After an initial draft, he had me put the draft aside and rewrite my essay without looking at what I had already written. This helped me write from the heart, instead of writing from what I thought I should write. My essay from that point on was in good shape to what I eventually submitted for my applications.


Best of luck in your college applications! You will do great!

Di recommends the following next steps:

Keep your grades high during junior year
Take the SAT until you achieve a score higher than average (compare to average SAT scores at your selected schools)
Get involved in at least one extracurricular activity. If you can get a leadership position in at least one club, that is a huge plus. I don't recommend getting involved with more than 3-5 organizations because then your time and energy will be stretched a bit thin.
Start thinking about your personal statement early, and start writing your first draft by the time senior year starts. Get help from a teacher you enjoyed learning from.
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Jennifer’s Answer

Sreshta,

This is an EXCELLENT question! I often wish more students would ask it, especially as you have in the junior year. When I work with students and their families, I encourage the student to spend the junior year practicing each of the components of the college admissions application so that it's either completed by the end of the junior year or a plan to finish is in place for the summer before the senior year. I strongly encourage students to be finish as early into their senior year as possible. It's such a busy time! I also prefer that they enjoy their last year rather than worry about graduation exams and application deadlines at the same time.

If you're not already familiar with the different components of an university application, start with one on the Common Application (commonapp.org). Once familiar, DO what you can to practice or prepare (see the list of suggested next steps below.

And once you've got the application submitted, don't forget the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile! You want to find money to fund your education too. :-) Learning about these options now will save you valuable time in the fall of your senior year.

The application process is long and tedious. Start now. Ask for help where you need it. Good luck!


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