Admissions

College Applications: Getting Organized

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As I type these words, my calendar tells me that today is Aug. 1. Yikes! Where did summer go? It's almost time to focus on college applications -- are you ready?

Your return to school is near. The content of this article is for rising high school seniors. You probably have about three weeks remaining until you get back to classes. I hope you’ve had an enjoyable and productive summer, which is quickly coming to an end.


It’s time to take inventory of your college admissions matters. Many of you have been actively involved in the college process already, having worked with your counselors to craft a meaningful and challenging course schedule. For those of you who look far down the road, your planning may have begun as far back as junior high school.

Regardless of your level of preparation, I’d like you to get organized in your thinking about what you’ll have to offer colleges as you approach your college applications. Having a comprehensive summary of your thoughts and quantifiable data about your profile can be a valuable tool in helping tailor your admissions strategy.

Accordingly, I’ll be discussing and illustrating a tool that I’ve shared before with both my own high school advisees and my readers here on College Confidential. I call it the End-of-Summer Recap. The time you spend completing it will be well spent as you begin what can be the complex and stressful college application process.

Most of you who are planning applications to competitive colleges, or even so-called “elite” colleges, no doubt began your planning in ninth grade, the beginning of your high school career. Your planning may have already included college visits and detailed research regarding finding the best match between your needs and colleges’ abilities to meet them. I’ve written at length here and on College Confidential about the preparation cycle, those actions that well-prepared applicants should take to make their college decisions count.

Speaking of preparatory actions, one of the best actions rising seniors can take as you head toward the end of summer and the start of senior year, is to take inventory of where you are and where you’ve been with your overall academic and extracurricular profile. So, the End-of-Summer Recap is a kind of “roundup” form into which you can put all the important data that comprises who you are as a potential college applicant.

The purpose of this tool, which was pioneered by College Confidential’s Sally Rubenstone for our independent college admissions counseling work together, is to give you a comprehensive overview, on one page, of what you have accomplished so far in your high school career. It also serves the additional role of showing you what you haven’t done and likely will need to do early on in your senior year.

So, if you’re motivated to take my advice to assess your accomplishments to date, copy the following form and paste it into your word processing program. Once you have done that, you can begin to compile your data.

After you’ve finished entering all your information and double-checked it for accuracy, you may want to print out the finished form and give it to your high school’s college counselor for his/her information. Granted, your counselor has access to all this data, but it is not likely available in such a convenient, concise format.

This will also exhibit your proactive attitude toward your college goals. That may endear you to your counselor, who, as you know, will be responsible for providing your school’s “flagship” recommendation on all your college applications. It certainly can’t hurt to make things easier for your counselor.

So, here’s the form. Consider its advantages and fill it out as completely as possible.

End-of-Summer Recap

Name:

Junior Grades: (List each class and the grade you received. Be sure to indicate if the class was AP, honors, etc. If you don’t have the exact grade, just estimate.)

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Senior Classes:

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Class rank: (This is your newest rank from the end of junior year, if you have it. If you only have your OLD rank, leave this blank.)

AP Exam results: (If you took any tests, list name of test and score.)

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Best SAT scores: (List your best Critical Reading score and your best Math and Writing scores, even if they came from different test dates. DO NOT COUNT PSAT SCORES OR PRACTICE TESTS.)

- Reading:

- Writing and Language:

- Math:

- Essay (optional):

Subject Test Scores:

Subject:              Score:            Grade when taken:

Subject:              Score:            Grade when taken:

Subject:              Score:            Grade when taken:

Subject:              Score:            Grade when taken:

Best ACT Composite: (If you took this test.)

Testing plans for the fall: (SATs, Subject Tests or ACTs you expect to take and when.)

If you had to pick the one college you most want to attend today, which would it be? (Don’t worry if you think it’s a “reach” school that you won’t get into.)

What other colleges are you most interested in right now?

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Are you planning to apply to any colleges via Early Action or Early Decision? If so, which one(s)? (Warning: Before answering, make sure that the colleges you list actually offer the options you expect to use. If you’re planning on applying to more than one college in the early round, read instructions carefully to confirm that you’re not restricted from doing so. )

Did you visit any colleges over the summer? If so, which ones and what did you think of them?

Name at least three colleges you have “investigated” (either via campus visits, websites, guidebooks, etc.) and are sure that you do NOT want to attend:

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Have any of your general college preferences changed over the summer? (Location, size, possible majors, willingness to attend a women’s school, etc.) If so, which ones?

List at least five things you did this summer. (Your list should include the most time-consuming and worthwhile activities you undertook (e.g., “Volunteered at a hospital” or “Worked 20 hours/week at a supermarket”) along with any other pursuits that were especially enjoyable or memorable, however insignificant you think they may seem to others.

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===== End of form =====

Here on the eve of your senior year, pulling all this information together onto one easy-to-read form is a great way to get organized.