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Monday, June 7, 2010

BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
gerald_bradshaw@post.harvard.edu
Bradshaw College Consulting
(219) 663-3041

Dear Mr. Bradshaw -- School is over and I don't expect to find a full-time job this summer. That leaves me with a lot of free time.

Rather than waste the summer, my mother said it is a good time to start planning for college applications this fall. I'm signed up for the Oct. 9 SAT.

Do you have any advice on the best way to prepare for the application process? -- A Senior

Summer good time for 'homework'



Dear Senior -- I've made a list of things to do -- and not to do -- to give you a leg up this fall.

Remember, fall semester normally is the busiest for high school. The more you prepare over the summer, the easier it will be.

The worst thing you could do is get bored with the process. This happens more often than students realize. Getting a lot of the mundane things done before school starts is the best way to avoid this pitfall.

Start by filling out the basic information required in the common application. This year, the College Board changed the opening date to Aug. 1, which is a month later than in previous years.

That means you don't have as much time to fill out the application before school resumes. But there is enough time to fill in the basic information and start familiarizing yourself with the questions you'll need to answer later.

It is critical that you start thinking early about the essays, list of extracurricular activities and recommendations.

Summer also is the best time to think about the colleges to which you'll apply.

Admissions people look for students who show an interest in their institution. Plan to show up when college reps visit your school.

If you have a legitimate question, that is a good time to ask. They also are happy to take e-mail or phone inquiries.

Warning: Be careful what you post on social networking sites. College admissions officers understand your need for individual expression and probably never will look at them. But there are exceptions.

Be on the alert for anonymous comments placed by a jealous classmate. The competition can get pretty cutthroat at times when it comes to top colleges.

I've seen comments suggesting colleges inspect a certain Web site. Remember, no rule says they can't.

This also is the time to upgrade your e-mail address. Names like "hotbabe" or "Ihatetests" are not going to impress colleges.

Use your real name or at least part of your real name in your e-mail address. It looks more mature and makes it is easier for admissions committees to search for your e-mails.

If your name is taken, add a few numbers after it. Believe me, it really helps when they sort through all the e-mails you send. These are points easily scored in your favor.

Be honest about your academic record, because letters of acceptance can be revoked. I know of one college that confirmed an anonymous tip that a teacher had caught a student plagiarizing an assignment in high school. This led to his admissions letter being revoked.

I suspect that if the applicant had disclosed the plagiarism, he most likely would have been accepted, since the offense took place in his freshman year.

It would have been better for the applicant to disclose it, explain the circumstances and tell what he learned from the experience.

Colleges don't expect perfect candidates. I'm not saying you have to divulge every transgression. But if anyone besides you knows about the offense, it's best to fess up in the application.

Most competitive colleges require a personal essay. Many require several essays -- up to 15 for some schools. They play a pivotal role in their evaluations.

Take advantage of this chance to tell them something about you that isn't reflected in other parts of the application.

And don't leave an essay blank. I really stress to my clients that these essays are important. Each one is given a score.

Colleges use the essays for academic reasons and to weed out boring applicants no one would want as roommates.

I recommend writing about some interesting quirk that reveals a facet of your character and lets you use some self-deprecating humor, essential to any successful application essay.

I had a client who wrote about her ability to identify a song after hearing just a couple of notes. It was trivial, but charming, and she got in

Remember, you are responsible for packaging yourself. No one can do it for you.

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