What Should Your Child Be Doing NOW?
By Robert Allsup | Contributor
The college planning process can be daunting, at times downright overwhelming, for both students and parents. Before you push that panic button or ask your child for the fifth time if he has started his college essays, consider the following suggestions for your rising senior:
Try to narrow the number of colleges down to a manageable number (10-15), and schedule campus visits at the top five schools on the list. Many colleges look at demonstrated interest, so it is important to have an official Information Session and Campus Tour when you visit.
Review the student’s final GPA for junior year, as well as SAT/ACT scores to determine the need to re-test in the summer (July-ACT/August-SAT); or if the student should do some test prep to increase the scores. Most students can raise their ACT score 3-5 points or SAT 90-150 points, just by working with a tutor or doing some strategic prep in areas of deficiency.
The summer months are an ideal time to begin working on the longer college essays for the Apply Texas App or the Common App. The essay prompts sometimes change from year to year, but you can review the Common App Essay Prompts www.commonapp.org/whats-appening/application-updates/2018-2019-common-application-essay-prompts or the Apply Texas Prompts www.applytexas.org/adappc/html/preview18/frs_essay.html. Typically colleges want a 500-650 word essay and possibly 1-2 shorter essays under 300 words. Many colleges use similar essay prompts, so it could be wise to begin to review each college your student is considering to determine which essay topics work best.
Many colleges require a resume, so the summer is a perfect time to update a current resume or begin one if you haven’t started yet. A well-prepared resume is one of the areas that can differentiate students from other applicants by showcasing leadership, service, honors and awards.
Many times parents create tension for rising seniors by setting unrealistic goals to write all of the essays or complete the applications before a family vacation or summer camp. Here is a schedule I would recommend:
• Take the SAT/ACT or SAT Subject Test
• Check SAT/ACT and SAT Subject Test scores online
• Update resume with test scores and summer activities
• Visit colleges/narrow list to top 15 schools
• Begin to prepare draft essays
• Update resume to include GPA, rank, activities, SAT/ACT/ Subject Test/AP/IB Exams
• Continue to prepare draft essays
• Register for fall SAT/ACT or SAT Subject (if needed)
• Continue to visit colleges
• Begin to prepare college applications (some colleges)
• Begin preparation for August SAT (if needed)
• Begin to prepare of September ACT (if needed)
• Complete college visits
• Narrow list of colleges to top 10-12
• Continue to revise final essays
• Finalize list of (8 -10) colleges
• Begin to prepare Common App or Apply Texas Applications (opens Aug 1st)
One final recommendation is to submit applications first to the “safety schools,” colleges where your child’s GPA/test scores exceed the minimum requirements. These applications often are shorter, have fewer or no essay requirements and will give a “rolling admission decision” in 30-60 days. Move on to the college applications that have Priority, Early Action (non-binding) or Early Decision (binding) deadlines, which typically range from October 15th to December 1st. By meeting a Priority or Early deadline, students can receive admissions decisions in November/December. Finally, complete the Regular Decision applications during the Thanksgiving/Winter Break.
Submitting applications in this order moves students from safety schools to their challenge schools and then their dream schools, allowing them the opportunity to improve their applications for their challenge and dream schools.
Finally, there is a large amount of uncertainty in the college admissions process, so the goal should be to have numerous options, thus enabling students to choose from multiple college acceptances and to find the one they desire to attend in the fall of 2019.
Editor’s Note: Robert A. Allsup is the Owner & Executive Director of Educational Counseling Associates in Dallas, Texas. With 35 years of private practice experience, he has helped over 4600 students to discover, organize and achieve their educational goals. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.