Did you ever have one of those dreams where you're in school and you know that there will be a test next period and you either forgot about it or you're completely unprepared? I still have this dream. It's scary, but the best part is that you eventually wake up and realize that it was just a dream.
There may be some of you high school seniors out there who are suddenly realizing that you are behind the curve (even way behind) with your college process, either due to procrastination or other circumstances that have kept you from doing what's needed to select your candidate colleges, investigate them, choose your finalists and apply. The actual application process is the “test" in that dream I mentioned.
This can also be a scary situation, but it's not a dream; it's real life. Today, then, I would like to offer some advice on how to keep this from going beyond a dream analogy and becoming an actual nightmare. It's now the middle of November and that gives you about six weeks or so (a bit more in some cases) to get with the college-process program and catch up to where you should be by application deadline time.
Start With A List
For high school seniors who are in the throes of the college application process right now, this time of year can be stressful, but for procrastinators, it can be even more psychologically punishing. By the way, if you happen to be a high school junior, you should pay attention to the kinds of issues your senior pals are experiencing because you are just a year away from your college process. The issues seniors face include selecting the right list of schools to apply to and how to best market their applications amid the turbulent sea of entrance requirements.
For the unprepared or disorganized seniors who may be reading this, let's first take a look at how to create or complete your list of candidate colleges that will receive your application. Second, we also need to consider some options for dealing with specific application strategies, mainly problematical standardized test scores. Believe it or not, it's not too late to correct your college application process technique.
Shucking right down to the cob, then, as the late newscaster, Paul Harvey, used to say, you need to get settled on your college list as soon as possible. Ever notice how quickly deadlines sneak up on us? The older we get, the faster they appear. Think back to when you were in first grade. Remember how it seemed like Christmas would never arrive? Well, you're in high school now. Every milestone seems to be just around the corner. If you're a senior, there's a very big deadline looming: Your decision about “which" college.
Maybe you've put off thinking about what to do, where to go, how to pay and all those other key issues involved in the college search and planning process. If you have, then it's time to take a deep breath and make some hard choices. Now! These issues don't take care of themselves. You and your family have to do something about them.
Consider Your Available Search Tools
If you haven't already done so, how can you get started? The best place is in your high school guidance office. Sitting there right now are two key ingredients that can help you make college decisions: Your guidance counselor and a pile of books and materials about colleges. You must talk to your counselor and you must read some material. You must also get your family involved in the college search and planning process. It's a team sport.
The other key ingredient is the internet. At home, you can use your computer (or even your phone) to quickly search for, find and confirm the answers to virtually any question you have about colleges and the application process. You may have found this article by searching the internet. Bottom line: You have all the tools you need at your disposal. Now it's time to use them.
Speaking of the internet, here's a great resource for you to get your college selection search off to a flying start. If you haven't already done so, become familiar with the College Board's college search tool, which is part of its so-called "Big Future" concept. Keep in mind that this is your big future we're talking about.
Big Future - College Search is a database of over 3,800 colleges and universities. You can apply online to college there and learn about financial aid.
For those of you who are seniors but haven't yet done any planning for college, it's late, but it's not too late. Your counselor and -- especially -- your parents have no doubt spoken to you on more than one occasion asking you what your thoughts are about college. If you have been undecided, make a resolution to start making some decisions.
Talk to your counselor as soon as possible. If you really want to go to college, come up with a minimum of three college choices. Make certain your family is totally involved in your selection process. Check the entrance requirements of the colleges you've chosen. Obviously, they're going to have some guidelines; make sure your profile fits theirs.
Now you've got the ball rolling. Don't panic. There is still enough time for you to make the right choices about college. Again, remember to talk to your counselor, read the resource materials, use the internet and keep your family involved with every step you take.
I'm willing to bet that if you get started with this process -- even today -- you can have your Common Application ready to go out to some reasonably well-considered colleges within the next two or three weeks. Of course, if you haven't met the testing requirements (SATs, ACTs, Subject Tests, etc.) then you could be up the proverbial waterway without a means of propulsion, if you get my drift.
Determine Whether Test-Optional Schools Are An Option
Keep in mind that there's even a way around test requirements: The so-called “test-optional" colleges. These are schools that don't require you to submit standardized test scores. Here's where to find those schools: FairTest. This could be the key that unlocks college doors for you.
When you go to the FairTest site, you'll see these welcome words, “Schools That Do Not Use SAT or ACT Scores for Admitting Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor Degree Programs." Oh, happy day! You'll also see this further explanation:
This list includes institutions that are "test optional," "test flexible" or otherwise de-emphasize the use of standardized tests by making admissions decisions -- without using ACT or SAT scores -- for all or many applicants who recently graduated from U.S. high schools.
As the endnotes indicate, some schools exempt students who meet minimum grade-point average or class rank criteria; others require SAT or ACT scores but use them only for placement purposes. Please check with the school's admissions office for details.
The schools are listed in alphabetical order. Here's a sample from the long list (the numbers following the school names relate to the “endnotes" mentioned above):
- Northwest College of Art & Design, Poulsbo, Wash.
- Northwest Florida State College, Niceville, Fla.
- Northwest Indian College, Bellingham, Wash.
- Northwest Nazarene College 1, 3, Nampa, Idaho
- Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, Mich.
- Northwestern Oklahoma State University 1, 3, Alva, Okla.
- Northwestern Polytechnic University, Fremont, Calif.
- Northwestern State University 1, Natchitoches, La.
- Norwich University 4, Northfield, Vt.
- Notre Dame of Maryland University, Baltimore, Md.
- Oak Hills Christian College 3, Bemidji, Minn.
- Oakwood University 1, Huntsville, Ala.
- Oglala Lakota College, Kyle, S.D.
- Ohio Dominican University 3, Columbus, Ohio
- Ohio Mid-Western College 6, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Ohio State ATI, Wooster, Ohio
- Ohio State University, Lima 2, Lima, Ohio
- Ohio State University, Mansfield 2, Mansfield, Ohio
- Ohio State University, Marion 2, Marion, Ohio
- Ohio State University, Newark 2, Newark, Ohio
- Ohio University, Lancaster Campus 6, Lancaster, Ohio
- Ohio University: Chillicothe Campus 4, Chillicothe, Ohio
- Ohio University: Eastern Campus 1, St. Clairsville, Ohio
- Ohio University: Southern Campus at Ironton, Ironton, Ohio
- Ohio University: Zanesville Campus, Zanesville, Ohio
- Ohio Wesleyan University 3, Delaware, Ohio
- Ohr HaMeir Theological Seminary, Courtland Manor, N.Y.
- Ohr Somayach-Tanenbaum Ed. Center, Monsey, N.Y.
- Oklahoma State University 3, Stillwater, Okla.
- Oklahoma State University 1, Oklahoma City, Okla.
- Old Dominion University 3, Norfolk, Va.
- Olympic College, Bremerton, Wash.
- Oregon College of Art & Craft, Portland, Ore.
- Oregon Institute of Technology 1, 3, Klamath Falls, Ore.
- Oregon State University, Cascades Campus 1, 3, Bend, Ore.
- Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, Calif.
- Ottawa University 3, Ottawa, Kan.
- Pacific Islands University 6, Mangilao, Guam
- Pacific Rim Christian University, Honolulu, Hawaii
- Pacific States University, Los Angeles, Calif.
- Palm Beach State College 6, Lake Worth, Fla.
- Park University 3, Parkville, Mo.
- Parker University, Dallas, Texas
- Parsons The New School for Design, New York, N.Y.
The answers to your December college application process delays and/or complications may well lie with “Big Future" and FairTest. You can use Big Future to identify those colleges that meet your criteria, either for the heart of your list or to fill out those remaining details, such as additional ballpark or safety selections.
You can then cross-index those schools with FairTest's long list of test-optional schools to see if there are any matches. You may even find a few matches that satisfy your need to find a school or schools that both fill in a critical part of your college list and make an allowance for your less-than-stellar SAT/ACT performances.
Yes, it's getting late, but there's still time for to get all this done, if you have the will to do so. Don't let your college dreams become a nightmare just because you haven't gotten started just yet.