Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Getting Your High School Senior Organized

For seniors in high school, it's time to move from thinking about potential schools to getting those applications started. Every school has a different application process, and all those dates and requirements can get complicated.

Now is a good time to start some kind of chart or spreadsheet to keep the information you need handy to refer to quickly. Include all the schools where your student is planning to submit applications. Across the top, here are some headings I recommend from our own spreadsheet:

  • Early Action (yes or no)
  • Due Date
  • Recommendations (yes or no, and if yes, how many)
  • Common App (yes or no)
  • Program
  • Supplement (yes or no)
  • Portfolio/Audition/Interview
  • Notes
  • Mid-Year Report (yes or no)
  • SAT II (yes or no)
  • Fee
  • Date of Completed Application
  • Expected Notification
While many parents think that applying to college is the time that their student should step up and take charge of their lives and show some responsibility, I'm not in this camp. Applications take a lot of time, there's a lot of information to organize, and for many seniors who are trying to maintain a high level of rigor, their schoolwork hasn't gotten any easier. Creating this spreadsheet for them is a huge help, and it can really cut down on the potential for misunderstandings and disappointment. You'll find that you can go to each school's website and look up all of this information under their admissions tab. A few hours now could save a lot of last-minute scrambling later.

The due date is a critical piece of information for staying organized. Each college offers choices like Early Action, Early Decision and/or Regular Decision. If your student can swing it, and the school offers it, the Early Action option can be a great way to get the whole process taken care of earlier in the school year with no obligation to the school. You'll get that acceptance news earlier as well - sometimes before Winter Break. If you shoot for the Early Action deadline, even if you miss it, you should be in better shape for the Regular Decision deadline. It can also take the pressure off everyone in the family and your Winter Break. We put our schools in order by due date so that the one with the first deadline is at the top of the spreadsheet.

Not every school requires recommendations, so this is another important piece. Your student needs to request recommendations in plenty of time AND leave time to follow up to make sure the recommendations were submitted. 

Does this school use the Common App? You'll find that you can knock out quite a few schools rather quickly if they are Common App schools, but many schools use their own online application instead.

Cal was interested in broadcasting and production, and it was interesting how every school seemed to call this something different. Knowing the program your student is considering is imperative! Sometimes applications are to the school in general, but other schools expect you to have a program or intended major chosen or even a back-up second choice.

Does this school require a supplement to the Common App? Often there is another essay specific to that particular college or university. If your student is interested in the arts or music, they may be required to submit a portfolio or audition tape or perhaps schedule an interview. Use this box to indicate this and include any deadlines.

Use the notes box to remind your student about anything that comes up as you comb the admissions website. A school may have unique deadlines for merit scholarships, special scholarships you can apply for separately, housing applications that need to go in as soon as you apply, etc...

Does this school require a mid-year report to be sent as soon as it's available? Do they hope to see SAT II scores?

How much is the fee required with this application?

When did you get the application submitted?

Does the school give a date you can expect to hear a response?

Finally, you can add as many boxes to this chart as you find helpful. Some other things you might find handy are student population, distance from home, and cost for tuition and fees.

We store this spreadsheet in Google drive so that Mark, Bailey and I all have access to it. I can't tell you how many times Cal and I used his last year, and it really helped Cal meet all those deadlines. Let me know if I can help you get started!

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