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.
Class of 2024
Importance of GPA & Keeping Grades Up
AP/IB Testing + Finals
Requesting Letters of Recommendation
Continuing College Research
Preparing for Essay Writing
Importance of GPA & Keeping Grades Up: We cannot stress enough how important your GPA and grades are in the college application process. Junior year grades are the last set of grades most colleges will see in the college application process, and you want to be sure to finish the year strong.
AP/IB Testing + Finals: May is the month of AP/IB testing, and many students across the country have their finals this month, too! Do your best to study for these exams. We highly recommend focusing on school finals first because that will help prepare for the other exams as needed, but also your grades will matter far more in the college application process than your AP/IB scores (which don’t typically get factored into making admissions decisions).
SAT/ACT Exams: If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for an official ACT or SAT. While many schools will remain test-optional, others will not. Obtaining a high score on either of these exams can be helpful in college admissions, but if you’re not a great test taker, there are still thousands of incredible college opportunities that won’t require scores (you can find the most updated list at fairtest.org). Be sure to check your emails consistently, because there are often pieces that require student confirmation, and if you fail to meet those deadlines, you won’t be able to take the exam. You can register for the ACT HERE and the SAT HERE.
Requesting Letters of Recommendation: While it may feel a little early, we highly recommend requesting your letters of recommendation before the end of Junior year. Our suggestion is to pick two teachers from this year’s core classes (math, science, history, English), and the third can be an elective teacher or another core teacher. Ideally, the teachers from whom you request the letter should know you well, at minimum, inside the classroom. They should be able to speak to how you engage in class, with your peers, with the material, and with adults. If the teacher can also speak to who you are outside of the classroom, and/or has had you in class for more than one course, that’s always a plus.
Continuing College Research: We’ve said this before, but the whole college application journey is a fluid experience. You may discover something new that you like, or something you thought you needed is no longer relevant or desirable. Your list can change throughout the process, but by June, we’d like you to have at least a handful of schools you definitely are interested in attending so that we can best focus on the essay writing process that will begin in June. As you begin to hone in and finalize your college list, you can also start engaging with the schools of interest. This can include scheduling an official campus visit, connecting with admissions or a specific department with questions (ideally questions that can’t easily be answered with a quick Google search), opening all emails (and exploring the links from colleges of interest), and any other form of demonstrated interest you can think of!
Preparing for Essay Writing: For students who will be working with Virtual College Counselors through the essay process, there is a document in your Google Drive folder called “College Essay Brainstorming Exercise”. We will be tackling the brainstorming and outlining process together in June so that when you go to write your first draft, you already have a foundation to build upon. Remember, these essays are unlike any you’ve had to write previously, and you can select your topic and structure. We anticipate this process to be fun, engaging, and not nearly as cumbersome or stressful as your typical English writing assignments. For those of you who aren’t working with us on this piece of the process, you can explore our brainstorming exercises on our blogs!
Class of 2023
Finalizing Documents & Forms
Sending Final Transcript
Pay Attention to Emails for College Stuff
Connect with Other Students in the Incoming Class
Makes Sure Everything is in Order for Graduation
Thank Your School Counselor & Recommenders
Finalizing Documents & Forms: Now that you have enrolled at your college, it’s important to complete any remaining forms required by the school, including the housing deposit and roommate survey (wherever applicable). If you are planning to take a gap year, be sure to request your deferral and follow the school’s instructions about what documentation they may require to approve the deferral. Also, be sure to get (in writing) whether or not your merit aid award will be deferred as well!
Relevant Blogs: Accepting and Declining Offers of Admission
Sending Final Transcripts: Throughout this process, we have emphasized the importance of remaining honest, ethical, and transparent. This includes only submitting an enrollment deposit to one school. Your school counselor will be sending a final transcript to only one school, so if you get off a waitlist or decide to enroll elsewhere, you’ll need to keep them informed of when you withdraw the initial enrollment and where you choose to enroll and attend. Seniors ask us all the time if it’s okay if grades slip during the second semester of senior year—as long as you don’t let them slip significantly, you should be fine. A few Bs when you had all As won’t result in the school rescinding your offer of admission but receiving several Cs, Ds, or Fs may be problematic. Keep us informed about how things are going and we will help you navigate the process as needed.
Pay Attention to Emails for College Stuff: We cannot stress this enough—Start checking your email at least once a day! This is particularly important for graduating seniors because it’s how colleges will communicate with you about anything they need as you transition into their school. This includes move-in information, course registration, etc.
Important Documents: Many students and families don’t think about this, but when a student turns 18 and/or heads off to college, there are some important documents to consider having in place, including a Medical Power of Attorney. Some schools may also require specific documentation for vaccines in order to be eligible to live in the dorms. Each school will have different requirements, so be sure to check your portal for more information!
Connect with Other Students in the Incoming Class: Most students are probably already doing this, but now that you’re enrolled, consider connecting with other incoming students on social media. There are even parent groups to join! You may not find your future best friends this way, but you’ll at least be familiar with some other students when you all arrive at orientation.
Make Sure Everything is in Order for Graduation: Please make sure everything at your high school is in order before graduation! If it isn’t, they can withhold your diploma which can result in the offer of admission being rescinded. The things we are talking about: library book returns/unpaid fees, completion of all coursework, returning of textbooks, and anything else required by your high school.
Thank Your School Counselor & Recommenders: Please don’t forget to thank your school counselor and the adults in your life who wrote you letters of recommendation and supported you on this journey. School counselors and teachers spend their free time after school, on weekends, and during vacations writing your letters of recommendation, so a handwritten thank you note and a small gift as a token of your appreciation are always welcome!