Getting a Head Start on College Applications for High School Seniors
Are you a high school senior ready for the next exciting adventure in college?
Are you eagerly awaiting sending in your applications so that you get that coveted acceptance letter in the mail?
Are you nervous about the work involved in college applications?
Getting a head start on your college applications can keep your enthusiasm up and calm your nerves during this important year.
You may be wondering how you can get ahead when you are still waiting on so much of the information that will be included in your application.
Here are a few ways you can start working on your college applications from the very first day of your senior year.
Gather information for the Common App
Many higher education institutions in the United States use the Common Application portal to accept applications from prospective students.
Using the Common App, you will enter your information into one central online portal, which colleges and universities then access during their admissions process.
Some schools add additional requirements or sections via the Common App but many portions can be used for all of the schools on your list.
You may not be able to complete key sections, such as GPA or class standing, until later in the academic year, but you can get a head start on the more routine parts of the Common App.
Profile section: Here, you will enter your personal information, contact information such as address and email, demographics, geography, language, citizenship, scholarships, and the fee waiver question. It is unlikely that this information will change during your senior year so you can complete it early in the application process.
More on scholarships: Within the profile section, you will have the chance to opt into a scholarship notification system. Doing so early will ensure that you have the most time to apply for scholarships before starting your first year of college. This can mean big financial savings for you as you pay for school!
More on the fee waiver: If you qualify for the need-based Common App fee waiver, you may also be eligible to be connected with a mentor who can help you as you transition from being a high school to a college student.
Family section: Here you will enter information about your household, parents, and siblings. This is a great section to start early. You will need to know about their educational background, occupations, and employer. If you do not know information about a parent, you are able to indicate that on the Common App.
Other sections of the Common App include the Education section, Testing section, Activities section, and Writing section. You may be able to complete some of the questions within each if you have past school, sport, or club experience you are ready to list.
As you complete and save your application, you’ll see a green check mark next to each section that is finished. When it comes time to submit, you will only need to review the section and make any changes before pressing the SUBMIT button.
Institutions that do not use the Common App still collect much of the same information. Gather it in one place to make your application easier to complete later.
Talk to your mentors
Cultivating a strong relationship with key adults in your life will do wonders to help you grow and develop, but it is also a great way to get ahead on your college applications.
The adults who have helped you throughout your school career, such as teachers, counselors, or coaches, know your strengths, weaknesses, and interests.
They can help you decide what schools may be a good fit for you or what careers you would like to pursue. They may even be able to connect you with other professionals in that field to learn even more.
These are also the most likely individuals who will be writing your letters of recommendation.
When it comes time to ask them for that key letter, having a strong relationship, in which they know you and your goals, will allow them to write a genuine letter recommending you for admission.
Brainstorm and write
One of the most important and challenging parts of the college application process is writing your Common App personal statement.
It’s beneficial to start early so that you have plenty of time to outline and brainstorm. It’s not realistic to expect to sit down and pen a personal masterpiece in one sitting. Great writing takes practice and time.
Take the opportunity to reflect on the prompts and brainstorm ideas ahead of time to ensure that when you do craft your essay, it is true and authentic to who you are and what you bring to that college or university.
If you are reading this article, you probably already understand the importance of starting your college applications early to make sure you put your best foot forward.
Getting a head start by completing routine sections of the Common App or other application materials, talking to mentors who will write letters of recommendation, and thinking through your personal essay will make application season that much smoother and stress-free.
Written by JASON PATEL, Former Career Ambassador at the George Washington University and Founder, Transizion