Hello Admissions Family,
I hope you are all staying healthy and as relaxed as possible as we move into the height of our summer. In Houston, our summer is pretty brutal, I know, but even so I hope you’re finding time to relax and enjoy some time away from the rigor of school and work. I wanted to check in with a few reminders.
Warning: these monthly updates and reminders are loooooong… and there’s a lot of information. It’s all stuff we’ve discussed before (or mentioned in my long Timeline Post), but I just wanted you (and your parents) to see if all written out, so if there’s anywhere you need to catch up, you can know.
A BEGINNER’S MIND: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we all think we know so much about different things. It’s like information overload these days because data is so easily accessible to us, not to mention rumors and advice from friends, teachers, and family. I’m a teacher, so I pride myself on knowing a lot about whatever I’m teaching, whether it’s writing essays, filling out apps, or making college lists, but I know that whenever I approach a meeting — or a post on Facebook or Reddit from someone else involved in admissions in any way — and I don’t acknowledge that I have a lot to learn — then I am missing out and so are my students. I’ve been teaching writing for over 30 years now, and I still learn all the time about approaches to the personal essay and ways to teach it.
And you know what? You might already know a lot about college admissions and writing essays, but I’d like for you to approach this time as a time to learn more about college admissions and essays — and more about yourself. For many college applicants, this is the first time you’ve really sat down and thought about what’s important to you, what you care about, what you worry about, what you want, so approach you — yourself — with an open mind as you explore this crazy, exciting, fascinating world of college admissions.
COLLEGE-ONLY EMAIL ADDRESS: Make a college-only email address if you haven’t already. I suggest firstname.lastname@example.org. Use that to request info from all the colleges on your list or that you’re considering so far. And use it to create your common app account. Do not use this email for anything besides college admissions! You will be overwhelmed by emails and it needs to be easy to find info from colleges. Students, I suggest giving your parents access to this email address so they can help you stay on top of info from colleges!
FINISH UP TESTING: If you’re not satisfied with your test scores and you’d like to test again (or for the first time), try to get that finished up this summer or early fall. Remember many colleges will remain test-optional for this year, so that’s always an option for you. If you’d like to read more about my thoughts about test optional, you can read my notes here, where I’ve also shared some links and articles.
REQUEST INFO: If you haven’t yet, request info from every college you’re applying to — also request info from honors programs and specific majors. Use your college-admissions-only email.
SPAM EMAIL FOLDER: Get in the habit of checking your spam folders regularly. Students often miss important messages from colleges in those folders. Parents, try to help out with this. If you’re not on your child’s email that they’re using for admissions, be sure to remind them to check regularly. Often, they’ll send info about specific dates and deadlines that aren’t published on Common APP or available to me otherwise.
START DEMONSTRATING INTEREST: Here’s some awesome advice from my friend and fellow private consultant, Jess Chernack at www.virtualcollegecounselors.com: “The only thing I would add is demonstrated interest! Now is the time to not only check email readily but also open emails from the colleges of interest—click on every link and spend time on those pages. Colleges are tracking which students are opening correspondence and which are engaging with the material sent. Clicking the links of interest and then navigating to other parts of their website can give the school a better idea of how to tailor their reach-out to you. Bonus points for constantly navigating, through those links provided so it can be tracked, to the scholarships and financial aid pages. If the school can see you are curious about affordability, and if you come back to it constantly, they will be far more inclined to negotiate aid awards when the spring rolls around and you’re making a final decision about where to enroll.”
THINK ABOUT YOUR COLLEGE LIST: Plan to have at least 3 colleges where your likelihood of acceptance is high — or guaranteed — and you can afford it (parents, it’s your job to do the Net Price Calculators for this) and you like it and can happily see yourself there. There’s nothing worse than being shut out from all your highly selective/rejective colleges and being left without choices.
VIRTUAL AND LIVE VISITS AND TOURS: Go on a college tour and info session hosted by the college for every college you’re applying to.If you can’t make it live, colleges have tons of virtual tours. Do them. Be sure to sign up with your college email. Take notes! You’ll want to mention something specific from the tour in your supplemental essays.
COLLEGE VIZZY: Here’s a link to College Vizzy, my website for college visits — and now virtual college visits. We’ve linked all the virtual visits we could find for over 500 colleges. I suggest using the links and checklists included in the website to be able to keep up with your thoughts about each college as you create your lists. Having a record of your thoughts and some screenshot photos that you can easily access will also help you when writing your Why College essays.
SENIOR YEAR COURSE LIST: Make sure your senior year course list has all the courses you need for the colleges you’re applying to. Most highly rejective colleges like to see:
- 4 years of English
- 4 years of Science (including Bio, Chem, and Physics)
- 4 years of History or Social Science
- 4 years of Math (preferably with Calculus, especially if you’re a STEM major)
- 4 years of Foreign Language – Why Foreign Language
If you don’t have these, check the recommended course lists for the colleges you’re applying to. TIP: If you need a course, you could possibly do a one-semester next spring (or this fall) either at your school or at Community College, but you’ll need to be signed up for it (and attend it) to list it on your application.
COMMON APP: Start filling out these sections: Profile, Family, Education. Use your college-admissions-only email to create an account. Do not fill out any school-specific info yet because it won’t roll over on August 1 when Common App Resets. Hold off on Activities, Testing, and Writing.
SOME DEADLINE GOALS: I have a lot of Texas students, so I think about Texas Deadlines, but these can help you plan you as you think more about the fall semester.
TAMU (Business or Engineering): before September 15
UT Austin, Georgia, UNC, Georgia Tech: before October 15
SCEA/ED/EA/Priority Deadlines in November: before October 15
UC Schools/CSU/Priority Deadlines of Dec 1: before November 15
RD Schools: Completed and ready to go before December 15. If you don’t need them because you get in ED, then no need to send them, but they need to be ready.
RESOURCES: If you look through my highlights on my profile page, you’ll see I have tons of resources to share, and be sure to check out my blog with tons more!
BOOKS: Time to Research and Read! If you haven’t yet gotten these books, I suggest you start reading them now: The Fiske Guide to College Admissions, Colleges That Change Lives, The College Finder: Choose the School That’s Right for You, and Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be. Also, take time to do some reading this summer just for fun. Readers make better writers. I’ll be happy to share book suggestions if you’re not sure what to read! One of my favorite books this past year Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – I highly recommend it.
FOR PARENTS —
- Letting Go: One of the hardest parts of the college admissions journey for most parents is the loosening of the reins and letting go, but I’m here to tell you it’s essential. You have to show your child that you have enough faith in them to move forward in their life, to fall down and get back up, to make mistakes, fail and flail, and still be able to make an amazing life for themselves. If they don’t know you have that confidence in them, then it might be difficult for them to find it in themselves. Look, I know it’s hard to watch them take risks and possibly fail, but that’s where learning happens. Let them learn. I’m a huge fan of Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of students at Stanford. Here’s her Ted Talk: How to raise successful kids –without over-parenting. Please watch it. And I love her book, and highly recommend it: How to Raise an Adult. I’m currently in the middle of listening to her latest book, Your Turn: How to Be an Adult. It’s for our kids, but it’s providing lots of reminders to me as a parent.
- Net Price Calculators: start exploring net price calculators on college web pages so you can see what works best for your family in determining costs. Before a school’s finalized on your child’s list, make sure it’s in the range of affordability by using the net price calculator on the college’s website. If it’s not and they don’t offer merit scholarships, I suggest taking it off the list. You really don’t want to saddle your child with debt if it’s unnecessary. I have net price calculators linked to over 500 colleges on my website, www.collegevizzy, or you can just google net price calculator and college name to find it too (usually). We can talk more about this if you like.
I think that’s enough info for now —
Good luck and stay amazing,