If you're a high school senior getting ready to apply to college, here are eight things you must do now, right away, in order to get organized, keep sane, and not drive us admission counselors crazier than we already are!
1. Open a new—and classy—email account. Do not email me from xoxohot4uxoxo or seximama143 or HotItalianSausage (yes, these are all actual applicant email addresses I've seen).
Create an account using your first and last name, and perhaps the year you plan to graduate from college (for example, Josephine_Holder_2014@gmail.com). If you want to inject a little personality into your email address, consider something like Caseyisgoingtocollege@aol.com. Cute and witty is good; suggestive is not.
2. Make labels to use at college fairs. Buy some standard shipping labels. On them, type or write your:
-Full name (middle initial, too, if you have a common name)
-Full mailing address
-Home phone number
-High school's name
-Year of graduation (THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!! And please put the actual year of your graduation [2010, 2012 ] not Soph.)
-High school's address and phone number
-Intended major (or majors)
-Any extracurriculur activies
Print out the labels before you head to a college fair, or write them out neatly in black or blue ink. Then, instead of filling out inquiry cards 26 times, you can just slap your tidy label on them. Voila! You've saved yourself a lot of annoyance AND you've made yourself look prepared and motivated.
3. Get organized! You'll accumulate hundreds of brochures and fliers from dozens of schools that are interested in you. Buy a cheap-o accordion-style file folder or use a cardboard box to keep everything straight. File the material you've received under separate categories (in-state, out-of-state, "def visit!", "meh," or whatever categories make the most sense to you). Immediately recycle any materials from colleges you're not interested in.
4. Start a college application binder or online page. There's certain information you'll need to give out a zillion times as you're applying to school. Keep it all in one binder, box, or Google doc, so it's easy to access. Info that goes here includes:
-Your social security number
-Your guidance counselor's name and number
-Your high school's address
-The names and phone numbers of your recommenders
-A list of all the colleges you're considering, with their numbers, websites, addresses, and various notes about each place.
5. Hunt down your guidance counselor and figure out "the process." Ask your guidance counselor to outline all the steps you'll need to take as you apply for college. Questions to ask:
-Do I need to apply for a transcript release?
-Do teacher recommendations go through the guidance office, or do they go directly to me?
-Does the guidance office have any deadlines of its own that I'll need to meet?
Take notes during the meeting.
6. Have a serious conversation with your mom and dad. Let them know this is your search--and then actually make it your search. Take on the responsibility of filling out inquiry cards and making phone calls to schedule visits. This is your first big step as a young adult; take advantage of it!
7. Mark your calendar. Find out when colleges and universities are visiting your high school, and put the dates in your planner. College visits are usually about 40 minutes long. They'll teach you a lot about the institution, and you might even get to meet the person who will be reading your application!
Also, scope out local college fairs. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) hosts free fairs nationally. Here are the schedules for this year's fall and spring events. Check with your guidance office, too; it will know of fairs happening locally at sports arenas and other high schools.
8. Start crafting that essay! Brainstorm, type random stuff, write down ideas and thoughts. Getting even a few words on paper now will make the final product (which I'll help you produce later on) much more effective!
If you have a question for Corinne, write to her at email@example.com.