A great checklist for rising seniors from Palo Alto High School college advisor Sandra Cernobori. Here's what you should be thinking about and working on over the summer to get the best results in your college application process and have plenty of choices in the spring of 2014!
1. With time demands for the academics, extracurriculars, and the ACT/SAT/AP tests of junior year, many students don’t have time to adequately research colleges, so this is the most important task for summer. This might include college visits. Even though summer isn’t an ideal time for a visit if classes aren’t in session, a visit can still be helpful.
2. Develop a solid college list -- a list of 8-10 colleges with a range of selectivity that fit their academic, social, and financial needs/goals. Track the application requirements and deadlines. Students should finalize this information with their college counselor in Fall.
3. In addition to using financial aid or net price calculators to help identify colleges that are a financial fit for their list of colleges, as rising seniors, students should look into scholarships sponsored by: colleges (sometimes these require that the college application is submitted by an earlier deadline); local business and civic organizations; cultural and religious organizations; parents' employers; places where students have performed community service, worked or interned. Many high schools publish and maintain a searchable database of scholarship opportunities (we do so in our school Naviance Family Connection account) but students should also check resources in local libraries or national search sites like www.finaid.org, www.meritaid.com, and many more sites we have listed on www.paly.net/college .
4. Students should familiarize themselves with college application essay prompts and writing directions. The UCs, the Common App, and some other colleges have already published the essay topics for next fall’s application cycle. It can be helpful to brainstorm possible responses this summer. Once the Common App for 2013-2014 opens in August, students can look at any application supplements their colleges might have which require additional writing. The idea would be to map a plan for their essays to (1) avoid redundancy between the main Common App essay and application supplements (2) see which other application essay topics might overlap.
5. Prepare for fall SAT/ACT tests, if applicable.
For more information about applying to college, see Chapter Chapter 7, "Taking the Tests," Chapter 8, "Creating an Initial List of Colleges," Chapter 9, "College Visits," Chapter 10, "Turning Your Initial List into Your Application List: The Eight to Ten Colleges Where You Will Apply," Chapter 13, "Essays," and Chapter 16, "Financial Aid," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.
Also, stay tuned next week, we'll have lots of links to advice and resources for writing your essays.