So, senior year has just started. What are the top five things seniors (and parents) ought to start working on right now to take some stress out of the college application process?
1. Begin filling out the Common App! The Common Application is an undergraduate college admission application that students may use to apply to any of the 731 member colleges and universities. Most private colleges and universities use the Common App. Depending on how many schools you are applying to, it will take about an hour to fill out the online form. You can save your progress and schools for later. Start the Common App here.
2. Get ready to fill out the FAFSA! The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form that families fill out to apply for federal grants, loans, and work-study funds for college students. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Education, which provides more than $150 billion in student aid each year. The FAFSA opens for submission October 1, 2017. Filling out the FAFSA will require parents to assemble their most recent federal income tax returns, W-2s and other records of money earned, potentially bank and investment account information, and records of any untaxed income. Access the FAFSA electronic portal here.
3. Begin writing your essays and personal statement! Your college application essay gives you a chance to show admissions officers who you really are beyond grades and test scores. Ideally, students begin writing these essays in the summer. These are not your typical essays — they take some forethought, introspection, and usually multiple drafts. They are short – 650 words or less – and function best when they showcase who you are, your personality, and what matters most to you. See this link for some further application essay tips.
4. Show Demonstrated Interest! Have you visited a college yet to see if you’d like to apply or attend there? Did you know that schools keep track of who comes to visit? Many schools are now keeping track of official tours/visits as a sign of demonstrated interest in the college, so be sure to make it official and sign in. Other forms of demonstrated interest include e-mailing professors to express interest in their research, talking to former and current students, or visiting events with regional admissions officers. These things help you put specifics about the school in your essay, which can help boost admission chances.
5. Deadlines! Finally, don’t lose sight of all the deadlines that pile up this time of year. Find all your application and related deadlines, put them on your calendar, work backwards from them, and do not miss them. Colleges will not accept late applications unless there is a remarkable circumstance. Many schools, furthermore, have early deadlines — as soon as mid-October. The University of Washington, for example, requires applications by November 15. Every year, students and parents miss it.