Time line for getting ready for college

Today’s guest post on the AboutOne blog comes from Stephen Friedfeld, the co-founder of EqualApp (http://www.equalapp.com), an online college admissions counseling program that improves applicants’ chances of getting into college.

Thinking about college?

If so, remember – the college admissions process is complicated, but organization and advanced planning can alleviate stress and make applying more manageable. Here is a timeline that we advise our clients to follow. It works backwards for high school seniors.

  • Submit applications. This happens any time between September and February of senior year, depending on the deadline as well as the admission program. For example, many colleges have a November 1 early decision or early action deadline, and a January 1 regular decision deadline.
  • Write essays. The more colleges your child applies to, and the more competitive the college, the more essays that will be required. Your child should probably plan for a month or more for these to be completed. And in case you hadn’t heard, teenagers like to procrastinate.
  • Request recommendation letters. Your guidance counselor will write one letter and your child will often need one or two more letters. It’s best to ask these teacher(s) at least one month in advance. Some students also like to have a coach, employer, clergyperson, or club adviser write a letter – plan accordingly.
  • Interview. Most colleges do not have evaluative interviews any longer, but many offer interviews on campus during the summer before senior year or with an alumnus in your area (after the application has been submitted).
  • Take (and re-take) standardized exams. If your daughter is applying to colleges that require the SAT or ACT, then a good time to take this exam is June of junior year. (It’s also fine to take these exams earlier, such as January or March of junior year.) It’s not a good strategy to take and retake and retake these exams to try and improve one’s score without studying between tests. Other standardized exams include the SAT Subject Tests, which are often required by highly selective colleges, and the PSAT (or PLAN), a pre-SAT or pre-ACT taken in the fall of sophomore or junior year.
  • Visit colleges. Visit colleges throughout the summer before senior year. Start visiting during spring break of junior year, and perhaps even a bit before that – during breaks throughout the fall of junior year, or informally over the prior summer. Students and parents should also visit colleges virtually – go online and read about academic programs, admissions policies, and financial aid opportunities. You can get a sense of a college from its website to know whether it’s worth scheduling a campus visit and tour.
  • Meet with the guidance counselor. You and your child should introduce yourselves to the school counselor in the freshman or sophomore year to discuss plans for college and courses to take. Some school counselors do not allow meetings prior to junior year, but try to land a meeting, if possible.
  • Plan courses early. Take rigorous courses in freshman and sophomore year to be eligible for AP or IB courses in junior and senior year. Highly selective colleges like to see as rigorous a curriculum as possible.

Planning early – and using available resources, such as college consultants, school counselors, and college admissions officers – can help you navigate the process with less stress and more success.


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