Succeeding in College Through Proper Planning
“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” ~Sydney J. Harris
As you head into your final years in high school, the pace really starts picking up in terms of college activities and deadlines to apply. At this point, you are in control. You control the colleges on your list and the attention each school gets from you. Once you formally apply to a school, however, you effectively relinquish control of the process. This is why planning in advance is so crucial.
To help keep you organized and focused, we have built a calendar of events and recommended list of activities in the remainder of this guide. Please use this eBook diligently in order to maximize your time and resources.
What Your Grades Say About You
Make sure to talk with your academic counselor to ensure you are taking the right classes and have the grades to move to the next step in the process. Your grades are increasingly important in your Junior year as it sets the stage for the application process and can speak to trends in your effort. In other words, having a steady, predictable performance in the classroom is much better to prospective college admission teams than wild swings from good to poor and back again.
Gathering and Organizing School Information
A fair amount of time and resources will be spent gathering quality information about prospective colleges. As such, the need to stay organized is essential. After spending time answering the questions from chapter 1 of this guide, you will be able to efficiently collect information about higher education institutions to add to your list. This list will continue to grow over time thus making the need to start organized and stay organized even more critical.
Utilize your counselor(s), your family, and your friends to collect feedback and critical advice. It will be through this process that decisions will become crystalized over time. Remember to ask questions and be open to an array of feedback. In addition to your family and friends, you can leverage key professionals to help guide your path.
It may be best to keep a file for each college during this phase of the process. As they send you information, you can keep the information in the file along with anything you have sent to the school. You may also want to construct a calendar of events by school to help you stay organized month over month.
The calendar should include time to connect with your counselor, internet research, upcoming college fairs, application deadlines, college interviews, visits to prospective schools, test dates, financial aid deadlines, and a timeline for teacher recommendations to be submit.
Asking for Help
Your high school counselor can be a key resource to help provide insights, advice, and resources. In addition, they will provide you the necessary assistance to help determine the classes you need to take and when you should take them. The majority of the guidance offices will send prospective colleges your transcripts, grade point average, grades, and class rank to colleges. Start this process early and remain vigilant about keeping in touch with your counselor over time.
Hiring an independent counselor could be an option to consider if you believe additional guidance is necessary. These type of professionals can help you shape the college decision making process. As a word of caution, before hiring a third party to help with this process please make sure to validate their credentials.
Ask for references, talk to college admissions counselors, and make sure to connect with former clients. If an independent counselor is employed to assist in your quest to determine the best college or university, please remember they can only provide advice and counsel. They should never push you towards a singular school, offer to fill out your application, guarantee the receipt of a grant or scholarship nor compose an essay on your behalf.
Gathering the Right College Information
Utilizing the internet to gather information is an efficient and effective means to find out more about colleges and universities. A comprehensive, trusted service like MatchCollege that has helped millions and millions of students is the type of credible source to best accelerate your college search.
As you collect online and print materials about colleges, pay special attention to the academic requirements, upcoming campus tours, and application deadlines. In addition, make sure to overlay your school requirements and preferences with what each school offers. If there are special classes or requirements you need before applying to the school, make sure to take note of these items and act accordingly to increase your chances of gaining admission to the school(s) of your choice.
Make the Most of a College Tour
Taking the time to visit a few colleges on your short-list is an excellent way to learn more about the school. The most crucial times to visit a school is often at the end of your junior year or early in your senior year. To set up a campus tour, reach out to the school’s admission office several weeks in advance.
When you visit the campus, make sure to develop a checklist of items you want to see and take notes about the school. Some important facets of a school tour include: facilities, dormitories, talking to current students, read the campus newsletter, talk with faculty, have a meal on campus, visit a classroom, and generate a list of great questions specific to your interests.
Tip for the College Interview
If the college offers personal interview, make sure to sign up for it in advance. A couple key elements to the interview: be early, be well-dressed, be prepared. Make sure to arrive early to the interview and let them know you are available to start any time. In terms of appearance, make sure to be well groomed and present yourself well.
There will never be another opportunity to make a first impression so make the most of it. In terms of preparation, create a list of questions based on the college catalogue and their website. A few starter questions may include asking about:
- Can you tell me more about a specific major (ie. if you are interested in math, ask about more information about applied mathematics)
- What concerns are students talking about this school year?
- Can you tell me about the graduation rate and a percentage of freshman that return the following year?
- What social groups or activities are available to students?
- How would I plug into extracurricular activities?
- Does each student have an assigned counselor to help them map out classes year over year?
- What is the percentage of on-campus versus off-campus housing?
In addition to your questions about the school, you need to be prepared to answer some questions about yourself. At minimum, be ready to tackle the following questions:
- Tell me more about yourself.
- What are your goals while in college? What are your goals after college?
- What are you passionate about in life?
- Why do you want to attend college?
- Tell me why you would like to attend this college?
- What majors are you interested in at this point in your life?
- What books are you currently reading? What are the last 3 books you have read?
- What do you do with your free time?
- Do you have extracurricular activities that are important to you?
During the interview process, make sure to be yourself. Relax. Make great eye contact. Answer each question to the best of your ability. Be articulate and thoughtful. Be interested in the other person & put your best foot forward. It is okay to admit you do not have all the answers as long as it comes with a willingness to learn.
It is very likely you will need to provide grades, class rank, athletic accomplishments, extracurricular activities, groups/memberships, and current course load. At the completion of the interview, make sure to thank them for their time and call them by name. Consider writing them a hand-written note after the interview to help your time together stand out.
Alumni Network Interviews
Ask to see if the colleges you are interested in have an alumni network that requires you to interview with them. It’s good for you to know that some schools require you to interview with some college alumni whether you have already completed a campus interview or not. This gives the college an opportunity to connect with you through their alumni network which serves a dual purpose for you to get to know the school better and them to get to know you better.
If it makes sense to schedule an alumni interview (even if it is not required) make sure to reach out to the admissions office to set it up. If they provide contact information about your assigned alumnus, do research on him/her and be prepared to ask them great questions. Whether the interview is in-person, over the phone, or a Skype-type call, be prepared and well groomed.
Utilizing Student Information Services
It is important to note that some schools have eliminated the on-campus interview with an admissions officer in lieu of a group information session. This process change was designed to offer multiple students and parents an opportunity to learn about a college in a single session. A group information session coupled with a campus tour can go a long way to answer a litany of questions about a school. If you still have specific questions for an admissions officer after attending a campus tour and group information session, make a point to include a specific letter to accompany your college application.