I’m a high school senior, who just completed all of their college applications. I understand that September-October can be a very stressful month for everyone applying. The number of essays seems infinite- not to mention the tedious process of applying for financial aid. Through extensive research and experience, I wanted to share what I learned throughout this process for next year’s applicants.
Create a Plan
The first step to having a successful college application season is developing a plan. Typically, you can use Google sheets to list out all of your colleges. Each row should be a separate college then each column can be labeled as follows: application deadline, supplemental deadline, SAT score requirement, teacher recommendations, and supplemental essays.
Application Deadline: Here you want to list out the early action deadline. This can be found on the Common App website, or the website for the schools you are applying to. If there is no early action deadline available, then go ahead and list the regular decision option; try and finish this as soon as possible.
Supplementals Deadline: This is where you want to list out all additional information a college needs, and when it is due. For example, UF needs an SSAR, residency declaration forum, and self-reported test scores. Colleges tend to have different deadlines for this supplemental material, for the University of Florida, it is December 1. In essence, just list out this information in this column.
SAT Score Requirement: Research the average SAT score for all the schools you are applying to. This will help you set a goal score for yourself and you can study accordingly.
Teacher Recommendations: List out how many teacher recommendations you need, and what teachers you are looking to ask.
Supplemental Essays: Determine how many supplement
Start Your Essay
The essay is arguably the most important part of your application (This does not mean to take the other supplemental essays lightly). You will send this out to each college, listed on your Common App, and let your admissions officers know more about you. Here are some tips for writing a strong essay:
- Start early - Get feedback from teachers and peers - Talk about you - Create a narrative - Do not force any ideas
Apply for Financial Aid Early
I cannot stress enough that this needs to be done as soon as possible. Most applications open at the beginning of October, and you want to get this out of the way. Initially, it will raise your chances to receive more money, and it will give your information time to process. Furthermore, these applications are very tedious and need a lot of information from your parents. For example, the FASFA and CSS Profile both need a lot of information from past tax returns.
I recommend setting up a text file on your computer with all of this information needed from your parents because you will need it multiple times.
Plan out each step of the admissions process. There is a lot of material and it would not be fun if you did not get accepted to your dream schools for missing out on the small details. Get started early, and apply for financial aid as soon as possible. Then approach the “Why us” question as a research question and go in-depth about the school you are applying to.