Thursday, June 7, 2018
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
School is over, I will be a senior in the fall, and I do not expect to find a job this summer. That leaves me with a lot of free time. Rather than waste that time, my mother suggested that this would be a good opportunity to start planning for my college applications this fall. I plan to take the SAT in October. Do you have any advice on the best way to prepare for the application process?
I do have suggestions about things to do and not do that will give you a leg up in the application process. The fall semester of your senior year is normally the busiest in your high school career. The more time you use to prepare this summer, the easier it will be to meet testing and application deadlines. The worst thing you could do is get bored with the process, which happens more often than students realize. Getting most of the mundane things out of the way before school resumes is the best way to avoid this pitfall.
Start by filling out the basic information required in the Common Application. The Common Application starts accepting applications Aug. 1, but recent changes allow you to start filling it out now. Explore college websites to get as much background as possible about your selected schools and the areas of study that interest you. Make a list of your extracurricular activities and see if you can find a list of essay questions from which you will choose in each school’s application process.
I always suggest that, if possible, you visit the campuses of the schools that interest you the most. If this isn’t possible, you will find college admissions offices more than happy to take email or phone inquiries.
A Warning: Be wary about your posts on social networking sites. College admissions officers understand your need for individual expression and may never look at them, but there are exceptions, and there is no rule that says they can’t. Be on alert for anonymous comments placed by jealous classmates. The competition can get pretty cutthroat when it comes to top colleges. This is also a good time to clean up your email address. Names like “hotbabe” or “Ihatetests” are not going to impress the admissions office. Use your real name, or at least part of it, in your email address. This will make it easier for admissions committees to search for your correspondence. If your name is taken, add a few numbers after it. Believe me, it really helps when the schools sort through all the emails you send. These are points that will be 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 that student’s admissions letter being revoked. I suspect if the applicant had disclosed the infraction, which occurred during his freshman year, explained the circumstances and detailed what he learned from the experience, there may have been a different outcome.
Essays continue to play a pivotal role in college applications. Most competitive colleges require a personal essay, and many require a combination of essays and short statements. Essays give you a chance to tell a school something about you that is not reflected in other parts of your application. Never leave a request for an essay blank because each one is given a score and could play a pivotal role in your acceptance. Think of them as potential tie breakers. I always suggest writing about some interesting quirk that reveals a facet of your personality. I enjoy telling the story of a client who wrote about her ability to identify a song after hearing just a couple of notes. While the subject was trivial, she wrote about it in a charming way and was accepted at a top school.
Remember that you are responsible for marketing yourself, and no one can do it for you. Brush up on your writing skills and use this downtime to good advantage. I promise that you won’t be sorry you did.
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
Tags: College Search Test Preparation
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