“Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable!” --Eric Jerome Dickey
In college admissions, this quote is often repeated, but seldom heeded. Yet, so much stress can be avoided by preparing early for college. Many students wait until the last minute, and then realize that the college application process is more complex than they expected. What can be done early? Almost everything!
Working With An Advisor
Many families don’t start thinking about working with an advisor until the student is a rising senior. I have had many students who have had to make up classes or repair their transcript in the senior year when they are already stressed. If a student comes to me earlier, we can plan a remedy sooner, and set up a path for success before the senior year. Proper course planning in the freshman and sophomore years can help ensure that the student will have a good school/life balance while meeting the admissions requirements for the colleges he or she is interested in. Starting with an advisor early helps keep your options open!
Planning your testing early is also helpful in managing your senior year. If you need to do some test preparation, you can work on it over the summer so that you can focus on your classes and applications during the school year and still do well! Waiting until the last minute puts extra pressure on students.
Visiting colleges early is helpful get the feel of a college campus. Sophomores and juniors can get an idea of what characteristics they are looking for when they get their feet on a campus. Touring when classes are in session is best, but even summer visits can be enlightening. You can work visits in when you are on vacation or visit locally. Right in our own backyard we have St. Mary's College, a nationally recognized private liberal arts college, (discussed in Colleges that Change Lives), and a top public research institution: Cal Berkeley. Touring college campuses can help you shape ideas about what you want and don’t want in your college experience.
Starting your applications in the summer is one of the easiest ways to get an early start. Did you know that the Common App and the UC App open August 1st? You can make your accounts and enter your information, courses, and grades before school starts! If you are waiting for test scores or have some changes, you can make them any time before your submit your application. You won’t submit until fall, but by getting over that first hurdle, the rest of the process is easier. Remember, you want to have your applications submitted by Thanksgiving so you can be thankful that your applications are finished! (Parents will give thanks too!)
Procrastination is not your friend when writing college essays. Some students say that they work better under pressure; but with college essays, it’s important to have the luxury of time to revise and refine so the reader will have the best sense of who you are. Often if you write your personal statement, put it away for a day or two, then look at it again, you will have thought of some things to add, or even a whole new story. You will also want another set of eyes on your essay to look for spelling and grammar errors, (spelling always counts!), as well as helping you edit to the allotted word count. All of this takes time. The prompts for the Common App, the UC, and most other schools are available online now. You can start your essays today! With all of these pieces as part of the process, you can see that starting early is starting on time.