Dear Sista Friend,
For most high school students the college admission process is pretty stressful. You’re taking the ACT and/or SAT, enrolled in test prep classes, involved in everything under the sun for resume purposes, while also trying to maintain at least all A’s. My 13-year-old cousin is already talking about the ACT, what schools she wants to attend and is already worried about having enough money to attend her dream school. That’s a lot to be worried about at such a young age. The expectations and competition is cutthroat. Many students have a hard time finding topics for their essays. What are admission counselors looking for? What will make me stand out next to the other applicants?
This is when things start to really count. You don’t necessarily have to begin researching schools, however, it’s important to take your classes seriously. Push yourself to take Pre-AP courses. Colleges prefer to see that you’ve challenged yourself and earned a B in a rigorous course, rather than an A in a regular class.
Join clubs! One important piece during the college admission process is your resume. Colleges want to see what you’ve done and that you’re a well rounded student. Begin thinking about what clubs you want to join and how you plan to make an impact on your campus. It’s best to pick maybe two or three so that you can really immerse yourself and take on a leadership role down the line rather than only being a general member in numerous organizations.
Start taking AP Classes, specifically World History. Colleges are looking to see if you’re challenging yourself in the classroom. However, if you know you can’t handle AP, don’t do it! It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses and determine what is best for you.
This year it’s time to assume a leadership role in one or two of your organizations. Maybe become a committee chair or secretary to ease into the responsibilities of being a leader on campus. College admission counselors are looking for well rounded students that know how to work with others.
Depending on your first ACT/SAT score, you should engage in some sort of test prep. Now look, I don’t advise going out and spending hundreds of dollars on test prep. There are free online practice tests and you can look for old workbooks in your local library or counselors office. I would say take the test as many times as you like but be realistic. If you get a similar score the first three times or so, it may be wise to stop while you’re ahead and save your money. I took the ACT like 5 times throughout high school and got basically the same score every time. WASTE OF MONEY. (My mother is probably nodding her head in agreement right about now haha!)
This is why it is important to ensure that you are well rounded just in case you’re not a good test taker or you got a bad grade in a class or two freshman year. It’s all about balance.
This is the time you’re really honing in on what you value in a college. You’re determining what you want to major in, if you want co-ed or single sex, religious or not, public or private, large or small. There are soooooooo many factors that come up during this time. This is why it is very important to go on college visits. You may not have the means and opportunity to physically visit any or every campus but the internet is such a magical place. Many colleges and universities have virtual tours and/or Youtube channels where you can get an inside look at the institution. One thing that may help is a fly-in program, some schools fly students out to visit the campus after they’ve applied.
At the end of this year you should have your list narrowed down to your top 5-7. There is no need to apply to 10-15 schools!! WASTE OF MONEY. You also want to have taken the ACT/SAT for the final time (although they do offer it again in September but that’s a lot of pressure). Be sure to speak with your college counselor about fee waivers for ACT/SAT tests and application fees. Students in certain programs or on free/ reduced lunch may qualify to have these fees waived, saving you and your parents a lot of money.
Over the summer you should begin working on your essays. Determine what colleges accept the common application and what supplemental materials you will need for each school, if any.
Early Action v. Early Decision? Early action simply means you receive an early decision but it is nonbinding; meaning you do not have to commit until the normal date of May 1st. Early decision is binding; meaning if you are accepted to the institution you must attend. Early action and early decision deadlines are usually in November. Be sure to check each school’s individual website!
Personally, I applied to all of my schools early action. So after November 1st I was just [impatiently] waiting for decisions and applying for lots and lots AND LOTS of scholarships! (Because college is ridiculously expensive for no reason smh) I began receiving acceptance letters in December.
On May 1 you have to decide which school is the best fit for you and turn in your deposit! At this point you are now transitioning into college, attending orientations, and registering for classes.
I hope this information was helpful! I am more than happy to elaborate on anything mentioned above, give tips on essay writing etc. Just let me know in the comments!
Stay tuned for more inside info on The College Admission Process.
Your Sista Friend,