Happy Fall. The high school class of 2017 is bearing the brunt of the most reforms in college admissions in recent history. Below are some tips to help them succeed this fall.
- Get ready to apply for financial aid in October. The FAFSA will open October 1! The FAFSA is also implementing its new PRIOR-PRIOR policy. This means that applicants and their families can apply now for Fall 2017 using 2015 taxes. Moreover, the earlier you apply, the earlier colleges can now send true financial aid offers. This is a revolution in financial aid. Check each college’s priority financial aid deadlines. Also the CSS Profile that many colleges require is all following these rules and will now accept fee waivers.
- Visit local colleges. All colleges host open houses and special events this fall. Visit a campus. Visit classes, spend nights in the dorms, interview, meet professors, and more. Local private colleges will expect students to visit sometime before applying.
- Attend local college fairs and college info sessions. Many colleges have reps visiting your area this fall. Many host meetings at hotels or college fairs. Many colleges travel together to your area. Please try to connect with colleges on your list. If they are not in your area, go to online college fairs. College Week Live and College Greenlight host online college info sessions and fairs.
- Sign up for fall tests. Send scores to Early Action/Decision Colleges. Take standardized tests at least one more time this fall. Remember that seniors are faster, smarter, and better at test taking the fall of senior year. Don’t stop testing when you are peaking. Make sure you read each school’s requirements, and send in scores to your early action/early decision schools now. Applicants must send scores directly from testing websites.
- Invite teachers to write recommendations. Your teachers and counselors have to write many letters of recommendation. Colleges want very detailed ones that describe leadership and initiative, so complete brag sheets and questionnaires in great details. Attach examples of your favorite assignments, papers, projects, and class moments. Make sure you add teachers to Naviance or through your application portals. Small tokens of appreciation are nice, as teachers don’t get paid to write these letters.
- Keep revising college application essays. Please spend time creating application essays and personal statements that share unique stories and qualities about you to colleges. Remember, you want to impress them with your leadership, resilience, and initiative. These essays should focus on relatively recent stories and provide specific evidence of what you can offer colleges. See our tips on our site for brainstorming, writing, and revising great essays. Essays only get better the more you revise them.
- Research private colleges, especially those with merit and diversity scholarships.
Apply to at least four colleges that offer merit aid. Private colleges often offer more financial assistance than public universities for top diverse and middle class students. College Greenlight, http://www.collegegreenlight.com/ has a great free site to direct under-represented students to colleges who seek them. It provides applicants with all resources and school based merit and diversity scholarships. Emory, University of Southern California,University of Notre Dame, Northeastern, Villanova are examples of colleges with outstanding non-need based scholarships. Some require extra applications and some do not. Please do not miss many of their earlier application deadlines.
- Prepare for and arrange interviews. Many colleges offer interviews–both on and off campus. Many schools require you to set up the interview, so please go to their sites and arrange these as they fill up early. Others interview you after you apply and contact you. For any interview, go with your resume. This will not only your interviewer but also you–if you get nervous.
- Save all usernames and passwords. As you set-up all of your accounts, create a document to save your usernames and passwords. You will have many to track, especially when colleges have unique portals for applicants.
- Please check your email daily. Many colleges now announce admissions decisions through email. Others will notify you of special programs, financial aid, and more. Please do not miss out on key information because you don’t check emails. If you refuse to check your email, then agree for colleges to text you. Most offer that option this year.