Managing the College Application Process
Seniors, it is important that you begin to “manage” the college application process in the fall of your senior year. As there is little uniformity among schools, you need to be aware of application requirements, admissions options and their associated deadlines for the colleges/universities you hope to attend.
You’re not alone in this process. Your parents, guidance counselor and teachers all play a supporting role. While we are happy to be of assistance, you need to give us “lead time” (generally two to three weeks notice) if we are to help you make your best impression. Some recommended guidelines follow:
If you have not yet taken the SAT and/or ACT; if you wish to attempt to improve your scores by taking a test for the second time, or by taking its competitor; OR if you need to provide SAT Subject Test scores, please register via the College Board (SAT) or the ACT as soon as possible. Early registration and the selection of an early test date (September, October, November) helps to ensure your choice of test center and the timeliness of your scores. Please remember to include our high school code (221-082) when you register.
You are responsible for having the College Board or the ACT send official test scores to the colleges/universities to which you are applying. Your guidance counselor cannot do this for you. Under extenuating circumstances, at your request we will send an unofficial score report. But you must still follow-up with a request for official scores to be sent.
Many colleges/universities require a school/counselor recommendation, and/or teacher recommendations. If you have not yet done so, please make an appointment to meet with each teacher you intend to ask for a recommendation. In addition to requesting the teacher’s support, plan to spend a few minutes familiarizing the teacher with your college plans. Please keep in mind that the best recommendation letters come from teachers who know you well, often those who have seen you struggle with, yet succeed in mastering a subject; as opposed to the teacher of a class where you earned an “easy A.”
As for the school/counselor recommendation, to help facilitate this process your guidance counselor has met with you and solicited feedback from your teachers. We have also asked that you and your parent(s) fill out a Student Self-Desription and a Parent Brag Sheet. We need to have these forms returned to our attention as soon as possible. If you have misplaced your copy of the forms, please see your counselor for another set.
We strongly recommend that you waive your right to view the letters of recommendation you have requested. College and university admissions personnel feel such letters are more open and candid and, as a result, tend to give them more weight in the admissions process.
Now that your research is winding down, and you have a short list of the colleges you wish to attend, get to know their admissions options and the deadlines associated with those options. Every college/university has a different combination of options and deadlines, and it is up to you to decide which option best suits your needs.
For an overview of various admissions options visit the National Association for College Admissions Counseling web site.
Your guidance counselor is responsible for sending out an official transcript of your high school record. The transcript includes your mid year and final grades for all courses you have completed at Sturgis. It also indicates your GPA (grade point average) as of the end of your junior year. If you are a candidate for the full IB Diploma, there is a special notation on your transcript.
The transcript is sent out along with a School Profile, a copy of Sturgis’ mission statement, and a brief description of the IB Diploma Programme. A report card noting your senior year classes and your grades to-date is also included.
It is important to note that your SAT and/or ACT test scores are not a part of your transcript. You are responsible for requesting that the College Board or ACT forward official scores to the colleges/universities to which you are applying.
Application forms and essays
While traditional paper applications are still available, many colleges/universities are now encouraging students to apply on-line. Regardless of the format that you choose, keep in mind that neatness,grammar and effort count. First impressions are important, and often your application is the first contact the reader has with you.
Take the time to personalize your responses to each individual school. Like you, colleges are exploring fit, and they are interested in knowing if you have done your research. Do not short change your application by offering a “one size fits all” response when asked why you want to attend a particular school.
When it comes to essays, avoid the obvious. Do not repeat information that the college admissions counselor will be able to glean from your transcript, a resume of activities and awards, or from a short answer response on the application. Your essay should add “dimension” to your application. Share an experience that gives the reader insight into you as a person. To make sure that your “authentic voice” comes through, share your essay with a trusted friend and a teacher. Ask them if it sounds like you.
Finally, print a copy of your completed application form. From time to time applications and supporting materials do not find their way to the correct location. To avoid the hassle of having to fill out the application for a second time, have a back-up on hand.
This is where your organizational skills will be tested. At least two to three weeks before your first deadline you need to provide your guidance counselor and any teachers you have asked to write recommendations with the following:
(1) A list of the schools to which you are applying, along with an indication of the deadline date.
(2) An envelope addressed to each admitting office. The envelopes that you are giving to your teachers should each have a first class postage stamp affixed. The envelopes that you are giving to your guidance counselor each need to have two first class postage stamps.
(3) Any forms that are required. For example, the Common Application includes a counselor recommendation form, teacher recommendation forms, and at times a supplemental form.
Please remember, due to other work commitments your guidance counselor and teachers may not be in a position to accommodate a last minute request for a letter of recommendation. You need to plan ahead!
Monitor the status of your applications
Once a college or university acknowledges receipt of your application, keep an eye on its status. Many schools now offer you the opportunity to monitor your application, including the need for missing documents, on-line.
Now that your applications have been submitted
Once your applications for admission have been submitted, you’ve mastered one part of the process. While you might be tempted to sit back and relax, don’t get too comfortable. For most students the college/university admissions process involves two parallel processes. The second part is looking into ways to finance your college education: filing for financial aid; looking into and applying for scholarships; and looking into loan and other financing options. This part of the process involves some serious family discussions, as well as some substantial paperwork. Now it’s time to manage this end of the process. Begin by researching the paperwork required by the schools you are applying to (the FAFSA, and perhaps the CSS Profile and/or any school forms) as well as their recommended filing dates.