If you are a senior or the parent of a senior and you are behind on your college planning, this post is for you. The pandemic has created stress and hardship but one of the silver linings is that for seniors in high school, there has never been a better time to apply to college. And, the majority of schools will take applications without ACT/SAT scores! Below is a plan to complete a Common Application in ten hours or less.
Step #1-Open an account on the Common App and start filling it out the basic information. You will need to have access to your courses and detailed information about your family. Time required-1 hour.
Step #2-Use this guide from the College Essay Guy, Ethan Sawyer, to fill out the activities section and the honors/awards section of the Common App. This is a place to show off what you have done over your secondary school career. This is not a place to be humble. Time required-1 hour.
Step #3-Start drafting your personal statement. The “college essay” is not a traditional essay and should not be intimidating. It is a short personal statement where you get to share something about yourself. I do an exercise with my students where I give them an essay that another student has written and I time them while they read it. On average, it takes them about two minutes to get through it. I guarantee you that it takes a seasoned admissions professional ninety seconds or less to read one. So, the question is this: if you had ninety seconds with an admissions director in an elevator, what would you want them to know about you? Here is a breakdown of how to approach the essay:
Day 1- One hour
~Figure out what you to share about yourself. 15 minutes
~Draft a journal-style piece to tell your story. Do not consider the word count here, just keep writing until you have told your story. When you are done, put the piece aside for the rest of the day. 45 minutes
Day 2-Thirty minutes
~Review your writing and take a look at the word count. The limit is 650 so if you are over that (and most students are), find passages that are redundant or not germane to your story. When you finish, put the essay aside for the rest of the day.
Day 3-Thirty minutes
~If you are still over the word count, read through and see what parts are critical to your story and what you can eliminate. Force yourself to get at our under the word count. When you finish, put the essay aside for the rest of the day.
Day 4-Fifteen minutes
~Review your work and smooth out any parts that are awkward. Make sure your language is not redundant. Double check that you are not over the word count. When you finish, put the essay aside for the rest of the day.
Day 5-Fifteen minutes
~Read through one more time and make any revisions. When you are ready, share it with someone else for a final proofing and editing.
Step #4-Enlist two teachers (ideally from different subject areas) to write letters of recommendation on your behalf. This should be done in person and you should follow up with an email that thanks them, shares where you are applying, what you hope to study and lets them know what deadlines you are facing. Time required-30 minutes
Step #5- Meet with your school counselor to determine where you are going to apply. They will have important context about how colleges evaluate students from your school. Time required-1 hour
Step #6-Submit transcript requests to your high school.-Time required-15 minutes
Step #7-Sit down and submit your applications. (And if you have SAT/ACT scores that you wish to send, complete this task at the same time)-Time required-1 hour
Once you have submitted your applications, you will receive links to your application portal for each college. It is critical to monitor these to ensure that your documents arrive and your file is complete. Good luck!