Seniors: Get your Applications!

We're back! With our weekly reminders for seniors. Each week, we'll be providing information, checklist items and advice on applying to college -- testing, essays, deadlines, college visits, letters of recommendation and more.

First up? Seniors, get your applications.

Visit the websites of every college to which you will apply and find out what application form they support -- the college's own unique form, the Common Application, Universal College Application, or some other electronic application provider.

Download or obtain any university's unique forms (public universities often have their own forms) and if you are applying to schools that use the Common Application or another electronic provider, go ahead and register and create an account.

No need to complete the applications at this point. Just familiarize yourself with the forms and requirements, including deadlines and any supplemental material that you may need to submit. This way you will understand what is ahead of you and can begin to pull together the information required, as well as start budgeting your time accordingly.

What HS Juniors Should Be Doing about College

Independent college counselor Lee Bierer has some great advice for HS juniors on the college application process. You don't need to know which college you want to attend or what you want to study in order to prepare well -- from planning for testing to a first campus visit. Check out all her recommendations here.

Valerie Velhagen of Albuquerque's Eldorado High School is Counselor of the Month

Valerie Velhagen thought she would be a professor or a lawyer like her father. But some time off before graduate school -- working in her father's law office and studying for the LSAT -- lead her to take a different path. Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a long way from Brooklyn, New York, where Velhagen was born and raised. But after graduating from Massachusetts' Brandeis University with a BA in English and Pennsylvania's Duquesne University with a Masters in a program centered on existential/phenomenological psychology, Velhagen, now the College and Career Readiness Counselor at Albuquerque's Eldorado High School, made her way from New York's largest borough to the city on the banks of the Rio Grande.

And we're back...

It's so long to summer and back to school for us! This month we'll be bringing you insight from Director of Admission Rick Clark of the Georgia Institute of Technology, advice from high school counselor Valerie Velhagen on what juniors and seniors should be doing right now, and the next installment of The Transition from High School to College from educational counselor Jane McClure. And coming up we'll have more restaurant recommendations for your college visits -- and drop-offs -- in the Gourmet Guide, a new round up of experts every month answering "The Question of the Moment" -- from "When Should I Start Testing?" to "Why is College So Expensive?" -- and -- Coming Soon! -- podcasts with deans of admission from around the country.

And later this month, we'll have a completely revised chapter on the new Common Application available as a pdf right here on the site! Great guidance for students and counselors on completing the latest version of the electronic application.


Juniors: Create a Testing Plan

Second semester of junior year in high school means testing. In addition to the SAT (upcoming on March 9 and May 4) and the ACT (on April 13 and June 8), students may be taking AP exams and SAT Subject Tests this spring. There are upcoming SAT Subject Test dates on May 4 and June 1. Students can take Subject Tests at any time during high school. But there is optimal timing: test as close as possible to when you complete the relevant class so the subject matter is fresh in your mind. For example, if you are completing the highest level of Japanese at the end of junior year, take the Subject Test in Japanese at the end of junior year. Or if you’re in AP Chemistry, take the subject test in May or June while you’re prepping for the AP test. With multiple standardized tests and multiple testing dates, it’s important to take the time to map out a testing plan if you haven't already.


Focusing Freshmen on the "Big Picture"

In a guest post today, Jennifer Karan, Executive Director of the SAT Program at The College Board, discusses the steps high school freshmen can take to plan ahead for a college education -- a key to success. This article originally appeared on The College Board website.


As a former English teacher and high school dean of students, I know that there are few things as daunting, mysterious and exciting to a teenager than freshman year of high school. It’s a whole new world: the hallways are foreign and at larger schools, students sometimes feel as though they need a GPS to get from class to class; the upperclassmen seem so much older and are brimming with a glowing confidence; teacher expectations and homework may require substantial adjustment. And college seems like a distant point on the horizon.

Part of the trepidation may be what adults understand as not being able to see the forest for the trees. However, when students are able to envision how the various academic courses and opportunities in arts, athletics and other programs that develop interests (the school paper, community service or a part-time job) form the "Big Picture," they are able to navigate this terrain successfully, with greater purpose and enjoyment.

Juniors: For testing, get to know the basics

"Have a plan and never go into a test cold; always know the basics." -- Natalie Bitton, college counselor at Lycee Francais La Perouse in San Francisco

Juniors, with the ACT and SAT upcoming, here are some suggestions for getting to know the basics:

Read through the instructions (available on the SAT (College Board)and ACT websites) so you don't waste time the day of the test figuring out what the "No Change" response means on the ACT English section or how the SAT math section "grid-ins" work.

Refresh your knowledge on subjects where it's been a while since you've studied them, such as geometry. Take some practice tests under actual test conditions. Free practice tests are available here on the ACT website and here on the College Board website.

Scope out the location where you will be testing so you're not late.