Don’t Bury Your Head in the Sand
College planning can be daunting for some parents and teens. The key is to begin thinking about college preparation early in the process. This can mean carefully planning your curriculum in grades 9 and 10 and keeping a list of the students activities,honors and achievements. For a younger student, parents will want to help the child find a few extracurricular activities that their child can bring to the next level and develop a particular talent or strength. Colleges also look for volunteer service so it’s a good idea to get started on this early in freshman year. The most important part of college planning is being a good student and taking a challenging high school curriculum. Middle school will set the groundwork for this. By the time a student hits senior year he should have a full resume of activities,leadership and volunteer work on his resume. It’s a good idea to visit a few colleges during junior year to get a feel for campus location and size as well as the surrounding community. As an independent college counselor in San Diego I often see students coming in to meet with me as late as senior year and there is a lot of preparation to do in a very short time. For students who are interested in applying by November 1, they need to set aside more time in their schedule in order to do a good job on their applications.
Many juniors and seniors have not sat down with their parents to have an in-depth discussion about college. Families will want to discuss various factors such as cost and location as well as majors. The majority of students will begin these discussions during their junior year however some students are just getting organized in senior year. When this happens I highly suggest meeting with a college admissions consultant to help put a plan in place. While high school counselors will do their best to help answer questions, many of them do not have time to meet with students on a weekly basis to help them get organized and narrow down their options. This is where the help of an independent college counselor will be important.
A college admissions counselor has many years of experience working with high school students. We are trained in knowing how to create a college list and have in depth knowledge about majors and programs that are of interest to our students. Greenhaus College Consulting offers a 4 step process including personality testing that begins early in junior year. As a student is learning more about himself he will be better equipped to choose a school based on his personality and interests.
What do we mean when we say “Balanced College List”. Many students make the mistake of applying to mostly reach schools and not enough target and safety schools. We are advising you against doing this as it is not a good approach. A reach school denies more students than it accepts. These are schools with a 15-25% acceptance rate. Even if a student has over a 4.0 and perfect SAT scores can be turned down by one of these schools. The point is that you cannot use this school as a safety, even if you are a high level student with great stats. This is one of the biggest mistakes that students will make. A Balanced college list will have a few schools in each category.
Are you planning on applying to 20-30 colleges hoping that more is better? Stop yourself before you start because the admissions process does not work this way.
Students will be asked to write an essay for each of the schools they are applying to. If a student has visited the college, spoken to current alumni, and sat in on a class, they will have a very good idea of the campus climate that exists at this school. Providing that they are within reach of the admitted profile of the school, they now have a much better chance of acceptance in that they have truly done their research and can write an honest, intelligent essay about why they want to attend X university. Finding a few good targets should be your ultimate goal, not outsmarting the system or trying to add more random schools to your list and rushing through the supplemental essays.
If you are planning to apply to college in your home state, please take the time to visit. Many private colleges do track a students interest, so it’s a good idea to sign up for a tour and plan to spend the day on campus. In my practice, Greenhaus College Consulting, I often suggest that students visit schools within driving distance. San Diego students are strongly encouraged to visit colleges in Orange County and Los Angeles.
Social media has become a dangerous minefield for teenagers where they share freely with little regard to how this information can impact their future. More colleges are checking social media profiles than in previous years. As students approach their senior year in high school they should be using a professional email and make sure they are coming across positively on social media avoiding any posts that could be taken in a negative light. At Greenhaus Consulting we often review a students social media sites and give them feedback on both photos and current postings.
After spending so much time on your applications and essays you need to follow through by sending your ACT scores,subject tests, transcripts and letters of recommendation. Colleges will ask for three sets of transcripts which include grades from years 9-11, senior year grades from first semester and the final transcript is usually due by July 1 after graduation. While the high school usually uploads this information through a computer portal, not every school subscribes to college planning software and they may need to send this information through another means. If your school is not using Naviance you should ask the admissions office if the transcript can be emailed,faxed or sent through the mail. Students might be required to give their teachers a self addressed envelope to send to out of state colleges. As a college counselor in San Diego I often remind my students to reach out to their out of state colleges that are not on the common application and ask about how they would like to receive both transcripts and letters of recommendation. Students should make a list of all of their common application and out of state schools. In January we often send follow up emails to non common application schools to make sure they have received all of the necessary documents. It’s always best to safe than sorry in the long run