Sunday, July 20, 2014

UPDATE! 10 Tips 4 Staying Sane While Applying to College & Writing College App Essays

For those who couldn't make it to my talk at the Oak Bluff's public library in Massachusetts, here's the hand-out I distributed at the talk.

1. Bear in mind: It's normal to feel like you are going crazy. The process creates that, and the current atmosphere contributes. You have lots of company. It's not you, it's today's system. 

2.  Bear in mind: There is an end date to the crazy. It won't go on forever, even though it feels like it will. 

3.  Don't Pull an All-Nighter the Night Before - AKA: Start Early
Whether it's your search for the right college, your contacting teachers for letters of recommendation or writing your application essays (yes, often it's more than one essay), give yourself plenty of time. What's the right timetable? It's ideal to have your list of colleges by summer before application, with all the requirements and required essays spelled out; to have a good draft of the Common App essay by the time you return to school in the fall. If you're applying to schools with many supplementary essays, be sure to understand that early and plan accordingly. If you have a very busy school-year schedule and many essays, use your time in the summer to do them.

4. Submit Your Applications Some Time Before the Due Dates. 
Last year, the Common Application organization had massive computer problems, and many thousands of students, teachers, and colleges had to work around them, under tremendous stress. This is a useful lesson: If you wait until the last days, you will be pressing SEND with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of other students. Website crashes happen. 

Make a Chart. Share it with Your Parents. Keep it visible. 
As soon as you can, make a chart on paper (print it out) of all your schools, application due dates, requirements (recommendations, SAT subject tests, etc.), ESSAY REQUIREMENTS (with topics and word counts), and share it with your parents, so you can work to block out time to do everything in a timely way.

6.  Diversify, diversity, diversify. 
Pick schools smartly and pick a range. Just as financial counselors tell people to diversify their investments to spread the risk of losing money, make sure your list includes reaches, targets and safeties. It's not wise to have, say, 8 reaches and 1 safety. Research the schools and make sure your grades, scores and interests match up. Some students apply to many Ivy League and other top schools without understanding the differences between them in terms of curriculum, expectations, and atmosphere, and without understanding what the schools are looking for. Find out whether Top Dog University is the right school for you by reading about it in the resource books below and on College Prowler (  

7.  Consult resource books:
~ The Insider's Guide to the Colleges (published every year), edited by the Yale Daily News (student takes on their colleges, written by students, for students, in a lively voice).  
~ The Best 378 Colleges by the Princeton Review, new edition every year
~ K& +W Guide to College Programs & Services for Students with Learning Disabilities or AD/HD

8.  If you need financial aid, make sure you apply to schools where it would be available to you. 
Many colleges have a “Calculator” you can plug in your numbers to and learn how much aid you might qualify for. State universities, including Michigan and U California, do not generally offer scholarships to out of state students, though you may be eligible for loans.

8. Whether you're a Parent or a Student, it's Not Necessary to Share Details with Friends. 
Applying to college is a touchy subject. Who's applying where, who gets in where, and who is upset about not getting in - all add to the ordinary stresses. It may be less stressful not to share. It’s fine to say: “I think I’d rather not talk about all of this yet.” Or: “Son/daughter doesn’t want me to talk about this.”
9.  Visit the schools. Ideally, visit when school is in session.
If you are applying Early Decision (BINDING), visit the school so you can report you have visited on the application AND you can include reflections of your visit in your essay if you have to write about why you want to attend that school.

10.  Consider applying Early Decision and/or Early Action (binding vs. non-binding), so that your worries might be over by mid-December, instead of March or April. Consult each school's website to find out if they do ED or EA. 
Upside: You might have decisions by mid-December.  Downside: If you're rejected or deferred in mid-December, you have to submit applications afterwards, usually with Jan. 1 or Jan. 15 deadlines.  It's wise to do as much work as you can before mid-December.  1-855-99-ESSAY

If you can't make it to the library, please email or phone for individual support, on-island or anywhere around the world (I have worked with clients in Hong Kong, Cairo, Alaska, and Chagrin Falls, Ohio).

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