Weekly College Column

Fall timeline for Seniors

The to-do list for high school seniors seems to be growing longer each day. When they’re not doing homework, participating in their extracurricular activities, hanging with friends, sleeping, eating or texting, here’s what they’re thinking about: their college list, testing; upcoming campus visits; college applications; the Common Application essay, supplemental essays; transcripts; an activity list; letters of recommendation and scholarships. Are you tired or stressed? Think about how they must feel.

Let’s try to de-stress the situation by creating a Fall timeline and breaking each of these bigger tasks into more manageable pieces. Check them off as you complete them:

  • Finalize the college list by making certain it is a balanced list with reach/target/safety schools
  • Be sure to include an in-state safety school for financial reasons
  • Review the standardized testing calendar and register for the SAT in October, November or December or the ACT in October or December
  • Find out which of the colleges on your list are test optional
  • Check your school’s calendar and take advantage of any teacher work days and schedule campus visits
  • See if any of the colleges you’re considering offer Open House Dates or Discovery Days for seniors
  • Determine which schools offer Early Action
  • Decide if a binding Early Decision option at one college makes sense
  • Figure out which of the colleges on your final list are on the Common Application and which are not
  • Research the number of supplemental essays required or recommended by each college and create a document for each college listing their essay prompts and their deadlines
  • Set up accounts on each college’s website
  • Create a document that keeps track of your User Names and Passwords for each college
  • Prepare a timeline of activity based on each college’s deadline – Early Action/Early Decision schools first, etc.
  • Brainstorm essay ideas for colleges with the earliest deadlines
  • Write a first draft of essays
  • Edit essays and yes, edit again
  • Ask a trusted source to review your essays
  • Meet with college representatives when they visit your school
  • Review and then order high school transcripts – find out how your high school is sending transcripts to each college. Most high schools are now transmitting transcripts electronically.
  • Prepare your resume/brag sheet/activity list and give it to your recommenders
  • Research which colleges accept letters of recommendation and find out how many they require and how many they will accept
  • Ask teachers, coaches, advisors and employers for letters of recommendation
  • Begin researching scholarship opportunities

After reading this, I hope all of you parents are now a little more sympathetic to the angst of being a high school senior.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte and President of Bierer College Consulting. Send questions to: leesbierer@gmail.com; www.bierercollegeconsulting.com.


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