Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For Some Seniors, It's Crunch Time ! College Planning Tips

1. Be smart about your short list. While it might be tempting to pile on a few extra applications, don't do it. Don’t assume that the more applications you submit, the greater your likelihood of getting in. Focus on schools that are good fits and you’ll be fine. I recommend students apply between 8 to 10 schools unless they are applying to an extremely esoteric field.

2. Make sure you feel good about the schools to which you are applying. I can’t tell you how often, after the admission decisions have been revealed, a student says about a school on her list, “But I don’t want to go there.” Don’t apply to a school if you would not consider enrolling should you be accepted.

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3. Develop an application tracking document. List all of the schools that are on your preliminary list as well as the various forms and deadlines required by each. Post it on your refrigerator or someplace where you will see it every day. Make sure you also have all of your user IDs and passwords for your college applications in a spreadsheet. I recommend that you use the same password for all college applications. For security reasons, use a unique password that only pertains to your college applications, SAT / ACT registration, and scholarship / financial aid forms. This way you can share your password with your mom or dad and won't have to worry that your parents will break into your Facebook or My Space account.

4. Read the Supplemental Forms. Schools that use the Common Application or the Universal Application may require additional information and/or essays. Become familiar with the information requested on these forms sooner than later. Along those same lines, understand the application policies for the schools you are applying to. Single Choice Early Action (SCEA) or Restrictive Early Action (REA) is the newest option, which limits you to applying early to only one school to get an answer in advance about acceptance. It’s not binding, but restricts you from applying anywhere else under an EA or ED application. You can apply elsewhere during regular admission and do not have to make a decision to enroll until the school’s regular deadline.

5. Know the drill. It is your responsibility to know and follow your high school’s procedures for getting transcripts, grade reports and recommendations to your colleges. Take that responsibility seriously.
For 11/1 looming early action and early decision deadlines, you should already have your transcripts in route to the colleges. If you have done so already, put in your requests for transcripts to be rushed. With electronic transcript transmission, it is much faster than it used to be. However, not all high schools have this ability to send transcripts electronically.

6. Create a personal data spreadsheet. Include all the data that might be required on an application (from social security number to your parents’ middle names to the dates on which you sat for the SAT/ACT). Doing the research once will save you time and energy as you begin filling out applications.
7. Work with drafts. If you are applying online, print out a copy of the application. Fill it out long hand. Resist the temptation to let your first draft be your last draft. Also, every three to five minutes, hit SAVE with your online college applications. I can't tell you how many times students will call me up to say they have just lost all of the work they did on the common application, because they had to relogin due to inactivity. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE !

8. Stay on the radar! Continue to invest in building relationships with the schools that interest you. Attend their information sessions. As you have thoughtful questions about a school or its admission process, correspond with the representatives who recruit in your area.

9. Continue to visit college campuses. It is important to experience first-hand the campus culture of any college you are considering. Take tours. Visit classes. Whenever an interview is offered, take it! Talk with students and faculty. Ask questions. You should be able to visualize yourself on that campus. If possible, try to visit the campus at least once before January of your senior year. Many colleges will track your campus visit or college fair attendance, and will consider interest level in their admission's decision.

10. It might be easier said than done, but you need to be disciplined about managing the application process. Putting things off will only make it harder for you to do a good job as you approach deadlines. Make sure you have a strong resume completed ASAP, so that you can give it to your recommenders and guidance counselor.

BONUS! Remember to ask teachers that will actually give you a great letter of recommendation. It is ok to ask your potential recommender if they feel comfortable writing you a strong recommendation letter. Based on their response, you will know if you need to keep searching for another recommender. Follow the school's policy on how many letters of recommendation they are looking for and from whom.                                      

    (Image from College Jolt)

It is not too late to jump start your college planning process. The information provided was written by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608.

* Some of the following tips are taken from Chapter 12, “Time to Apply,” in Winning the College Admission Game. Published by Peterson’s, Winning is available at, and Barnes & Noble Bookstores.


  1. thanks, your resources have helped me out a ton. i used to narrow down my college choices and your advice about college applications to help with the whole process!

  2. Thanks for the information.Students should apply 8 to 10 colleges for admissions.


Thank you for your comment. Your input is greatly appreciated. - College News from Texas - Lauren Kahn, M.A.

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