T’is the season to start the application process, whether you are applying to boarding school or universities. By this time, you should have a pretty clear idea of the schools you are planning to apply to, aside from those elusive test scores needed to solidify your goals (notice I don’t use “dream”). Along with the “season” comes many other tasks to be accomplished – school for one (and it should be your #1 priority), preparing for those pesky tests, writing essays, getting teacher recommendations, completing the actual forms, and finalizing your list.
Here are a couple of things to remember:
- As mentioned, school should be your #1 priority. No matter where you are applying, your first semester/trimester grades can have an affect. While getting good grades won’t vastly improve your GPA, schools will be looking at how you did during this marking period. Consider school your full time job – so give it all the consideration–and more–that it deserves.
- Allocate time to get things done – each day! What does that actually mean? Since school comes first, the remaining hours (including appropriate time to sleep – at least 7 to 8 hours) should be divided by homework, test preparation, essays, completing applications, and other interests. Don’t slack on your interests or organizational commitments. Balance should be the operative word as you look at all the things that need to get done.
a. Prioritize – what needs to get accomplished now? What can you hold off on? What do you need to start?
b. Use a daily calendar to allocate specific times when you will attack the different tasks you need to get done. Set specific deadlines and intersperse projects over a period of time. Allow for revision and hiccups in your plan, such as events happen and take time away from what you need to finish. Plan ahead.
c. Don’t beat yourself up if you spend more time doing one thing. Learn to reevaluate how you use your time so that tomorrow you can get everything done.
d. Don’t leave things to the last minute; that never works out well.
- On the application front, in particular, make sure you:
a. READ THE DIRECTIONS
b. ANSWER THE QUESTIONS
c. Complete the necessary forms
d. Make sure your teachers are attending to your letters of recommendation. Nicely remind them, and make them aware if you are applying early (universities only) so they have the time to write good recs for you
e. Make sure you attend university visits to your school or area, even if you have been to a presentation before, especially if you are applying there. (Get business cards so you can follow up). Be open minded about school visits – you never know when you might learn something new! Remember Demonstrated Interest is an important, though small piece, of the application process.
f. Be focused and thorough! Make sure your application is as complete as possible.
i. Make sure your essays are filled with evidence, not vague statements or allusions.
ii. Make sure they tell your story, in your voice, with good, solid evidence. The reader should come away with some specific information about you in as complete a way as possible (given the apparent limitations of the application process.)
iii. Make sure that the essays are not just telling but showing who you are.
iv. Have someone, not a parent, read your essays for clarity, grammar, and context
v. Read your essays aloud – how do they sound? Are they complete, and do they tell a complete story? Will the reader understand the references you are making?
vi. When you are done, take a break from them, and come back to them after a week or so. Read them aloud again. Make adjustments as necessary.
There is no question that the application is time consuming and burdensome, but this is an important facet of your current and future life. The main problem is time.
Don’t wait, get going!