Pacing Your College Admission
Getting ready for the college application process can be overwhelming, and you probably have numerous questions:
“What classes will you take to prepare for success in high school? “
“How do standardized tests and extracurriculars fit into the picture?”
“What kind of an essay would you write?”
Every student who went on to college at one point or another had similar questions. A great way to start is to look at a timeline that details completion events as you follow the process of college admissions. Read through each of the parts below, see what you missed, focus on getting caught up with the things you can improve, and don't think about the things you can't do.
If you still have questions after you look at the timeline, don't worry! The topics below are just a high-level summary
Throughout High School
Take comprehensive high school courses (e.g., honours, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), HS / College dual enrolment), concentrating on core academics: English, Math, Science, History, and World Languages.
Most schools value rigorous courses that go beyond the minimum graduation requirements. Reflect on your grades and your transcripts. The transcripts from high school are considered one of the most important parts of your college application.
Explore and engage in extracurricular and leadership activities. Find summer volunteer opportunities / jobs / internships. Meet your guidance counsellor frequently if possible, knowing your guidance counsellor early in your high school career makes it easier to talk about your high school, college, and career plans.
Junior year, fall (September to November)
Prepare for SAT and/or ACT, start preparing at the beginning of the junior year for SAT and/or ACT. Take the PSAT in your junior year.Taking a full-length practice test of each one is a good idea, and using the results to help you decide which test is best for you. Many students take their choice test two or three times, with their senior year's final test in early fall.
Read more about colleges; Use online search tools, visit college fairs, speak to college leaders, and ask college friends to start formulating an opinion about where you want to go for their opinions on different colleges. Throughout the junior and senior year, continue this process.
Junior year, winter (December to February)
Take the first SAT and/or ACT, take the SAT and/or ACT in the junior year season. Some students do their second time better, but prepare to check the junior year spring or senior year spring again. Taking SAT Subject Tests for courses starting in the fall, SAT Subject Tests are best taken right after you have taken the related class and while the content is still new.
Start developing your target colleges list, identify 10 to 15 colleges of interest with the goal of having multiple schools at different levels of selectivity: some "probable’s" (sometimes referred to as safety schools") some "play" and some "seek" choices. Continue to update this list at the beginning of the senior year and throughout the junior year. Facilitate visiting appointments and speak to officials at your target college, call forward to the admission offices of the colleges you wish to visit. Note that some schools offer "fly-in" programs for students with financial need to cover travel costs. Search for traditional scholarships.
Junior year, summer (June to August)
When possible, visit target colleges, to attend dorms, classes, and recreation centres, fly to top target colleges the summer after junior year. For information on info sessions, tour times, and interview opportunities, search individual college websites. Tour target schools, if necessary, to attend dorms, lectures, and recreation centres, travel the summer after junior year to top target colleges. Search individual college websites for information on info sessions, tour times and opportunities for interviews. Start preparing for your interview, find the colleges you plan to apply for, identify those that may offer optional interviews, and start practicing with an available teacher or friend for interviews. Start drafting college application essays, the senior year is very busy, so the summer after junior year is a great time to start college application essays. Identify potential teachers to provide letters of recommendation, start identifying potential recommendations during the summer after junior year. These should be core teachers (math, science, history, English, or languages of the world) who know you best. Prepare documents for letters of recommendation from your teachers, prepare a few bullet points to your teachers, explain why you have selected them as recommenders and how you believe you have excelled in their classes academically. Use the calculators found on individual college websites, also known as net price calculators, to calculate how much your family will need to contribute to your college education. Create a list of all the financial assistance programs that you plan to pursue along with each of the deadlines. Apply for traditional scholarships, for more than 30 scholarships, many seniors apply. Don't shy away from local or essay-requiring options. You often have a better chance as fewer students apply for these. Start applying from junior to senior year and continue throughout the school year.
Senior year, fall (September to November)
Take the SAT and/or ACT, if you believe you might boost your initial SAT and/or ACT scores, take the tests in the fall of senior year for the second (or at most, third) time
Review essays on college applications, once senior year begins, ask a teacher to review your application essays and make any revisions before college applications are due. Ask for letters of recommendation, at least a month prior to the deadline, provide your recommenders with bullet points listing how you excelled academically in their classes along with the addressletter of recommendation forms and stamped envelopes addressed to the colleges where you are applying. Gather your application materials, make sure that you or your guidance counsellor have the materials necessary for college admissions, including forms, test scores, papers, suggestions, and transcripts.
If you're worried about the application's price, ask for a fee waiver from your advisor or college of interest! Submit early decision request, if desired, applications for early decision, usually due in November, require a binding commitment in exchange for early acceptance. Send early action applications, to make the final choice, you must obtain a decision early for early action schools but can wait for a regular decision to deposit.
Go into confident interviews, interviews happen in the fall for some early action / decision schools, and in early Jan to March for regular decision schools. You've done your research; now you're just talking!