No matter where you are applying it is important that you get all the pieces together. There is nothing worse than finding out that you missed an important essay or a school is asking for additional material that you did not find out about until the last moment.
Every application has lots of parts. It is your job as the applicant to make sure all the revolving parts come together. Certainly heading the list is grades. I recently had a conversation with a student whose academic grades were lacking because he had spent so much time preparing for standardized testing. While ACT, SAT, SAT II, TOEFL and SSAT (for boarding school) are important, they are not more important than doing well in school. The argument that your grades are not good because you had to prepare for these tests will fall on deaf ears.
While I just said grades are most important, standardized testing is also important and you should do well on them. But bear in mind that many great schools are now going Test Optional (read the fine print for schools that offer this option). Definitely you need to prepare for them and spend time building your vocabulary, critical thinking skills necessary to preform well. But there should be some balance. Finally, make sure you request College Board, ACT or TOEFL to send your scores directly to the schools to which you are applying. Listing your scores on your application is not official.
Resume – this is an important thing to develop. Applications ask you in one form or another to list your activities. How do you choose – the ones that are or have been the most influential in your development – academically, socially or personally. Only you can decide which has been the most impactful. But definitely don’t try to think about which ones colleges want to see. These are personal. I typically say list the most influential in order of importance on applications like the Common Application or the UC or any application that asks. Be aware that you may have many other activities and so you may want to develop a resume. Some schools provide the ability to upload a resume on the Common Application. It is also useful when you have an interview – you can bring this along or send it to the interviewer.
Letters of recommendation: Most schools ask for two. These should come from teachers who know you best. But, they should not come from the same academic area. In other words don’t have two math teachers or two science teachers. If you are applying to engineering schools you may want math and science. If you are choosing science as a major then two different recommendations may be called for – science and English or Social Studies. This is particularly true if applying to Liberal Arts, Science and Letters, Arts and letters etc…
Further on the issue of teachers recommendations. Remember that your teachers are busy. By now you should definitely have asked teachers to write for you, whether you are applying for boarding school or university. Teachers hate last minute requests. Also, if you are applying Early to a college, then you had better have asked them – the deadline is around the corner. Show the teachers that you respect them and their job.
And now we get to the final piece – Essays. Don’t wait!!! Do THEM. Yes, they are hard and you need to think about them. But they take time. Be aware that on the Common Application, that for some schools once you select your school within the university or the program, new short essay questions may appear. So it is best to finish the application part before jumping into the essays.
So why the rehash of all this? Early application deadlines are just around the corner. November 1 is NOW and November 15 soon. Something to be alerted to – if you are applying to one school ED I and perhaps another ED II (which has a later date) You cannot submit the ED II application until you have heard back from your ED I school.
If accepted to ED I you are done! But if you submit both applications at the same time, you could jeopardize both ED applications.
Good luck on getting all the pieces together but remember one final and very important part – PRESS SUBMIT APPLICATION and PAY!