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Monthly College Search Update

Welcome to our monthly update on the college search and application process. Each month, we'll be updating this page and including it in our newsletter, so that all of our subscribers can have access to summaries of what they should be thinking about at this point in the college search process.


These updates will mostly focus on the junior and senior classes. Freshmen and sophomores should focus on maintaining good grades, academically pushing themselves, getting involved in extracurriculars, and making sure their summers incorporate meaningful experiences for growth. 

November 2024

Class of 2025

Important Tasks

Relax & Enjoy Holiday Breaks

Check Email & Application Portals Frequently

Apply for Financial Aid

Submit Your Applications

Demonstrate Interest

  • Relax & Enjoy Holiday Breaks:  ‘Tis the season to focus on spending time with your friends and family! Inevitably, the questions about what you plan to do after graduation will come up, and we want you to be prepared to respond to these lines of questioning. After spending months navigating the college application process, many students feel burnt out and are anxiously awaiting admission decisions from colleges; they often have no interest in discussing future plans during this waiting game. We ask that family and friends respect the student’s desires to take a step back from the process and find time to relax. But we also ask that students politely decline the intended discussion (with a line as simple as, “I’m actually not sure of my plan as I wait for decisions, but I will be sure to keep you updated as I hear back from my schools of interest.”).

  • Check Email & Application Portals Frequently:  Seniors who have been working independently with Virtual College Counselors should have all of their applications submitted or ready to submit. Once all of those applications are in, it’s really important to check your email frequently for any updates from the school. It is also critical that you consistently check your prospective student portals for each school, to ensure that all application components have been received. Some schools add additional essays or components that can only be discovered and accessed through their portal, so applying before deadlines and checking frequently should ensure that no major piece is left out. Here’s a list of some things you should be looking for:

    • FAFSA/CSS Profile (not all schools require the CSS Profile)

    • High School Transcripts

    • School Report/School Profile

    • Letters of Recommendation

    • Student Self-Reported Academic Record (SSAR [if required])

    • Additional supplemental essays and responses not in the regular application

    • An additional scholarships application (if required for consideration)

    • Please note, these portals are also where you’ll hear about most admission decisions. Most schools will send an email notifying you that a decision has been made and published in the portal, but some will just expect you to discover the decision on your own without prompting!

  • Apply for Financial Aid:  We strongly encourage all families to apply for financial aid, especially considering some colleges require these forms to disburse merit scholarship funds. Instead of reinventing the wheel and writing our own version of these important documents, we are directing you to some of the most helpful links and best financial aid resources available::

  • Submit Your Applications:  Although the vast majority of early deadlines occur in October and November, there are still a handful of schools that have deadlines in December or early January. We recommend students submit their applications at least two weeks prior to institutional deadlines and apply early action whenever possible. Be sure to read through your application one last time before hitting submit, to ensure that all pieces are accurate. You would be shocked by how many students spell their own name incorrectly because they’re moving too quickly, and that’s an embarrassing mistake to have to correct while the admission office is making decisions!

  • Demonstrate Interest:  It’s never too late to demonstrate interest to your favorite colleges. Some schools factor this demonstrated interest into their admission decisions, while others don’t. In either case, engaging with each institution of interest can be beneficial for students to ensure that the schools are a good fit. Demonstrated interest can include registering/attending prospective or admitted student day(s), taking an on-campus or virtual tour, attending student panels, reaching out to your regional representative in admissions with questions, opening the emails your colleges send and clicking on the links, etc. Once applications are submitted, students can begin to dig a lot deeper into the schools they applied to in order to make the most informed decision possible about where to enroll.

Class of 2026

Important Tasks

Register for the Spring SAT

Connect with Teachers

Explore Learning Styles & Hone Study Skills

Begin Recording Activity Participation

Start Thinking about College Fit

  • Register for the Spring SAT: While many colleges and universities will remain test optional for the class of 2025, we strongly encourage all students to take an official SAT or ACT at least once to keep all doors open. Some schools might be test optional for admission but not for scholarship consideration, and many test-optional schools are a lot more selective about who they admit without test scores. To that end, the College Board opened registration for their spring test dates, so be sure to register ASAP to get a seat at the nearest testing center. Registering early also affords students the opportunity to create a realistic study schedule leading up to the exam date. You can find the test dates and registration deadlines HERE.

  • Connect with Teachers: Most colleges require letters of recommendation from junior year teachers, and most often from core classes. Now is the time to connect with your teachers and make sure they get to know you inside and outside of the classroom. They will be writing about how you interact in the classroom, how you engage with your peers, how you contribute to the class they teach, and the overall student community, etc. Give them positive reasons to remember your name: ask meaningful questions, accept constructive feedback to improve your skills in the class, and make sure to seek out help if you are struggling with the content of the course.

  • Explore Learning Styles & Hone Study Skills: Understanding how you learn best will come into play when you begin exploring college options and building your college list. Do you find that you do better in classes where there are more opportunities for hands-on learning (like projects, labs, etc.), or do you find that you retain more information when teachers lecture, and you take notes? This is also a great time to really hone your study skills. How much effort do you need to put in outside of the class to do well on exams?

  • Begin Recording Activity Participation: In the spring, we are going to recommend that students begin drafting a resume of the activities in which they’ve participated in during high school. This resume will ultimately become your activities list, but by the time the spring rolls around, many students forget activities in which they’ve engaged. Future you will thank current you for creating a spreadsheet with each activity, and recording the number of hours and frequency of engagement. Activities can include anything from sports (JV/Varsity and Club), music, school clubs, honor society participation, volunteer/service work, paid work, internships, family responsibilities, hobbies, and anything in between. Truthfully, an activity is whatever you spend your time doing when you’re not eating, sleeping, and going to school.

  • Start Thinking About College Fit: As you navigate through tougher courses during junior year, start thinking about what you might want to look for in a college. Are there certain states you are not interested in exploring for college? Are there states you do want to explore for college? Will you have financial support as you navigate the college application and educational journey? Do you prefer mountains or beaches? College town, rural setting, urban setting? How far is too far from an airport? Do you learn better in larger classes or smaller ones? Are you more engaged in the classroom when the teacher knows you? Do you prefer lectures or discussions to learn new material? Anything that comes to mind is worth writing down as you navigate this college search journey. The notes you take now will help inform your college list later!

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