3 Key Steps to a GREAT College Application
The first day of school is fast approaching and students are gearing up for another productive school year. The beginning of the school year involves new course schedules, new teachers, new friends and overall new challenges. Starting the school year as a senior presents even more challenges. Seniors are preparing for a new journey after high school, whether it may be going to college, military or working full time. Students will spend their last year of high school deciding on their future. For the students that have decided to attend college, applying is a process but the earlier you begin the process the less likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed out.
College admissions is a very competitive process. You are competing with students from all over the state and even the country to gain entrance into your first choice. How do you stand out? What will set you apart? A college application includes: the application itself, an essay/ personal statement, letters of recommendations and standardized test scores (ACT, SAT). Your application should highlight awards and accomplishments, extra- curricular activities, leaderships positions held and community/ volunteer service. Let’s break down the different parts of a college application.
The essay: Writing a personal essay is a great way for the admissions committee to get know you on a more personal level. When writing your essay, give yourself enough time to brainstorm, draft and revise it. Some colleges may provide a writing prompt and others may ask to write on a topic important to you. Two important things to remember when preparing your essay, do not wait last minute and make sure to proofread.
Letters of recommendations: Colleges usually require at least two or three letters of recommendations. The best way to ask for someone to write a letter is via email. Keep in mind people tend to be busy and an email seems less intrusive. The person you ask should know you and be able to write on your behalf but be sure to provide the person with information that you want highlighted in the letter. Also make sure to give them enough time to write the letter, preferably two to three weeks.
Test Scores: This is probably the least favorite part of the application. Most students dislike taking the SAT and/or the ACT, but it must be done. Ideally, it would benefit students to begin testing the summer going into junior year. This way you have an idea of how these tests are structured and a better idea of what and how to study. Some students hire tutors, however, this can be costly. There are plenty of websites that offer study guides. Check out Collegeboard.org and ACTstudent.org for study guides, practice tests and dates of testing.
It is also a positive to add any awards, accomplishments, extra – curricular activities, volunteering and community service to your application. It will help you stand out. College applications usually have deadlines in early spring but as I mentioned earlier, the admissions process is very competitive, so the sooner you start the application process the better. Ideally, it is best to begin working on college applications at the end of junior year. You should give yourself time to work on the application, the personal statement, plenty of time to complete the college entrance exams and enough time to ask the right people that can be provide a reference for you.
Tameka Lee is a school counselor and currently works with the Hillsborough County School District. Tameka has worked as a counselor since 2011 and has worked with students of all ages. Tameka attended Florida State University for her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Troy University for her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. One of the reasons she enjoys working with students is the fact that she gets to engage students on a personal level and assist with immediate and future needs.