Last fall, I gave you my seven tips to ace a college application.
One of my tips is the earlier you start, the better. And for all those juniors out there, that means starting on your application today.
The Common Application has already released the essay questions for the 2017-2018 application, and there are several other items you can focus on now to make senior fall less stressful and create your best application.
Having plenty of time to create amazing essays and set yourself up for success is so important. Starting early on big tasks is a life skill that will serve you well in high school, college, and your career. Breaking the college application process down into smaller chunks not only gives you a better result, but makes it an enjoyable experience instead of a headache. Focus on these seven tips to have an amazing application in time for submission early next fall.
1. Start on your personal statement
The personal statement is one of the most focused-on portions of the application. It’s one of the few pieces that hasn’t already been decided, like your grades and test scores. I used the same essay to get into Harvard, MIT, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, and Columbia. The one school I didn’t get into (Princeton), I didn’t use my personal statement. That’s probably not a coincidence.
Being able to spend six months instead of six weeks on your essay can absolutely make the difference between an amazing essay that helps you get into your dream college and a boring essay that’s forgotten before the reader gets to the end. Take a look at the Common App essay questions today. Start brainstorming story ideas, and just get writing. You will be so happy you did.
2. Ask for teacher and coach recommendations
I love this tip. Everyone is asking for teacher recommendations senior year. Your teachers might be writing dozens of recommendations. Asking teachers for recommendations now is a great way to make sure you’re first in line. You’re fresher in their mind right now, so they have a better memory of what you value and how you contribute.
Not every teacher or school will allow you to get recommendations now, but it’s worth asking even if it only demonstrates to them how eager you are to get their letter.
3. Start showing interest
For many of the top schools, it’s really important that you demonstrate interest in the school. This can include securing informational meetings or video chats with professors and coaches. The spring of junior year and this summer can be great times to visit college campuses. You might not get a great feel for what the college experience will be, but you’ll have more time and less stress to explore. You can schedule in-person meetings and tours of the campus at this time.
4. Raise those test scores
Hopefully you’ve already studied and taken the ACT or SAT and gotten a fabulous score. But if you’re looking to increase that score, the summer is an awesome time to study for these tests. The SAT now has an August date, so check out the schedules for the SAT and ACT and register for the tests that make sense for you.
If you need to raise your score, be sure to do something different when you study this time around. That might mean studying on your own, getting an online course, going to a class, or getting a tutor. These test scores are super important not only for admissions but also for scholarships, so the time spent on this is extremely valuable.
5. Take a college course
The summer after my junior year I spent at Washington University in St. Louis, taking two college courses. It was a great experience and allowed me to demonstrate that I could handle college-level courses. Just about every college offers summer programs for high school students. I was able to receive need-based aid, so don’t let the price tag scare you.
6. Work on a service project
While you can’t completely change your resume at this point, the end of junior year is a great time to ramp up any service project or volunteer work you’ve been involved with. Think about how you can really stand out. Maybe you want to put on a summer camp or resource fair during the fall. Maybe you want to start a non-profit.
Use the spring and summer to plan your project, get mentors and sponsors on board, and start putting your event or project together. The beauty about starting something like this now is it’s great for college applications, but it’s even better for teaching you life skills and figuring out what you want to do when you graduate.
7. Start a club
Junior spring is a great time to start a club at your school or even outside of school. On your activity list it will look like two years instead of six months. Bonus! Starting a club is a great way to really explore your interests. Sometimes it’s tricky to start a club at your school, especially in the middle of the year. If that’s the case, you can look for outside of school opportunities while planning how to transition it to a school club in the fall.
If you want even more tips for creating your absolute best college application to help you get started on your applications for next year, get my Ultimate Guide to the Common App.
Jessica Yeager is a graduate of Harvard and MIT with over ten years of tutoring experience. As a senior in high school, she gained acceptance to Harvard, MIT, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, and Columbia. She is the founder of Impress the Ivies and host of the Dream College Summit. Her students have gotten into elite schools, like Harvard and Carnegie Mellon.
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