Sep 18, 2009

College Admissions Advice from Those Who Know: Last Year’s Seniors

For the most part, the college-going members of the high school Class of 2009 have already reported to their respective colleges and universities. But as luck would have it, at least one particularly articulate group of former high school students left behind some serious advice for classmates and others knee-deep in the college admissions process.

Over the next couple of Fridays, I will share their unedited thoughts and responses to the prompt, “What suggestions would you offer rising seniors that you wish someone had given you before your senior year?” This information is pure gold!

  • Go visit every college that you are interested in. Sometimes you may think one particular college is good just because of the name or prestige, but several times you may not enjoy the academic and/or social environment.
  • Work during your junior year to really get a good feel for the type of school you want to attend. In the beginning of my senior year, I had anticipated working at the same pace I had in previous years. While junior year was definitely focused on doing well to get into school, senior year was the time I worked hard to make that happen. With that said, you’ll spend a lot more time in the fall applying to schools and will have to adapt your studying habits accordingly (your weekends will be spent writing essays and you’ll have less time to do homework for classes).
  • Of all the parts of your college application, put the most effort into your grades.
  • I highly suggest you start working on your essays little by little during the summer before senior year. Get done with your essays early and you will have time to get a lot of input on how to improve them.
  • Start the college application process as soon as possible. It seems like a huge burden, but it will go so much better if you finish things sooner rather than later. There are a lot of factors going into your application, and if you wait until the last minute you may not have time to re-do things that need to be re-done. Deadlines are deadlines.
  • Complete an application for another school before completing one for the school you really want to go to. Completing applications gets easier with practice as you get more comfortable with the format and process.
  • First semester is considerably worse than junior year, but it pays off 4th quarter. Also, talk to your counselor, but make sure you’re doing what you want to do.
  • Do your homework—don’t apply to colleges that you don’t actually want to go to.
  • Maintain good grades throughout your entire senior year. Start preparing your college applications during the summer or during any downtime that you have. Even if you don’t have the writing prompts for the real application, write a couple general essays about something that had a profound impact on your life, or who you admire and why, or anything else along those lines. During your first semester, do not put anything above your academics (like extracurriculars or athletics). Enjoy your senior year.
  • Plan ahead and stay on top of the details.

Next week, the seniors give advice on early action, scholarships, and financial aid.

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