02 Mar March Road Map
The recent warm weather might have fooled you into thinking summer is around the corner. While unfortunately that is wishful thinking, you should still be working on your summer plans. Many students will be doing something academic this summer, and that increasingly includes test prep. For the first time, the College Board is offering an SAT in August this year (on the 26th), and the ACT just announced a new July test date starting in 2018. These summer test dates will allow students to schedule some of their exams during a less hectic time and, ideally, lighten the workload during the busy fall of senior year.
In the meantime, the next few weeks offer several opportunities for students in all years of high school to do college research. The national college fairs sponsored by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling bring together hundreds of representatives from colleges around the country to meet students face-to-face and share information about their institutions. See the events section below for dates in your area and check out these tips for preparing for the fairs. And take note, these tips are also useful when college reps visit your high school.
Road Map for March
Unless you have committed to a school under an Early Decision agreement, these are the last few weeks of waiting for Regular Decision admissions. School counselors have been sending midyear reports to all of your colleges with your first semester grades, and admissions officials are deep into their committee discussions to make final decisions. I’m crossing my fingers for all of you!
If you applied to your first choice and were admitted under a binding Early Decision agreement, make sure you’ve withdrawn your other applications. If you were deferred in the early round, you still have an opportunity to let the school know of your continuing interest and share any new information that might boost your application. Don’t go overboard with this though— only submit accomplishments that were not part of your original application or reflected in your midyear report.
As final decisions roll in, I hope every student has a variety of options to choose from. If so, the toughest part may be picking from among your great choices. A visit to campus can help, especially if you haven’t seen a college in person yet, and an offer of admission often comes with an invitation to an admitted students day or weekend. This is a great opportunity that can help you clarify which of your top choices is the best fit.
Financial aid offers will also be coming in. If the package is not what you were hoping for, check out these two articles on appealing your offer. There are also hundreds of private scholarships out there that you can apply for, such as those many credit unions offer to their members, or this one for DC student-athletes. Check out sites like the College Board and Fastweb for searchable lists of scholarship opportunities.
Finally, remember that while you’ve worked hard to meet your deadlines and some well-earned relaxation is healthy, don’t let it cross the line into slacking off. You’ll benefit in college from the preparation you’re getting in your current classes, as well as maintaining your study habits and discipline. This article has some good suggestions for how to make the most of your remaining time in high school.
Now that spring is in sight you’re probably increasingly focused on college admissions activities. Most of you have started test prep, and many have either taken or registered for your first SAT or ACT. (For DC students who took the SAT in school this week, give yourself a pat on the back!) You’re probably also scheduling college visits, especially during the upcoming spring break. As you make plans for spring travel, check out this list of open house events in the Mid-Atlantic region and these tips for making the most of your tour. There are also lots of ways to connect face-to-face with college representatives without traveling. Keep an eye on your high school’s schedule of upcoming visits, and check for college fairs in your area sponsored by NACAC and Colleges That Change Lives.
Looking ahead to the application process, the essay prompts for the Common Application and Coalition Application have been released for the upcoming cycle. However, with classes, extracurricular activities, standardized tests, and college visits all going on or coming up soon, you may be feeling the crunch of junior year right now. Go ahead and look at the essay topics if you’re curious, but I recommend juniors focus on their classes and plan to do most of their essay writing during the summer. You have enough on your plate between now and your final exams! Try to stay motivated and organized, and be sure to get enough sleep and give yourself some down time. As busy as you may be, taking care of yourself will help keep you productive.
I am still accepting new counseling clients in the Class of 2018. For one-on-one guidance on testing, campus visits, summer plans or any aspect of the upcoming application process, please contact me to schedule a meeting.
Many of you took the PSAT this fall, or perhaps your school offered the PSAT 10, which is the same test but is given later in the year. It’s great to get an early read on what your test scores might look like next year. Look at areas of strength and weakness, and be aware that the work you’re doing in your classes now will continue to prepare you. Speaking of which, you may be in the process of choosing your classes for next year. For advice on testing or course selection, contact me for an appointment.
You’re not yet into the thick of the college search but I recommend that everyone do at least one college visit before the end of 10th grade. If you’re traveling for spring break, consider touring a campus in the area you’ll be visiting. Check here for a schedule of open houses at colleges in the Mid-Atlantic region. If you’re staying close to home, block out a few hours to tour one or two schools locally. In the DC area there are so many colleges nearby, and seeing the differences among them will give you a frame of reference when you get more focused on the search next year. The organization Colleges That Change Lives also recently announced its spring fair schedule, which provides opportunities to explore dozens of wonderful liberal arts colleges.
Are you in the process of choosing your courses for next year? Think about classes that are going well for you this year, and areas in which you’ve been challenged. (Perhaps these are the same.) For next year, the goal is to find the balance between pushing yourself and taking on too much. You may be having this discussion with your school counselor as well; if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with him or her yet, make an appointment. The goal of this meeting is to introduce yourself and develop a relationship with someone who can be an important source of support to you throughout high school.