The application process is fresh in my memory like Christmas Eve. Which was yesterday.
I was fortunate enough to have a dedicated college counselor willing to schedule meeting after meeting with me to better understand me and my goals. I hadn’t seriously considered colleges until the end of junior year summer, and I learned the college process through Google searches.
My advice/ things to consider:
Try on the PSAT, it could get you scholarship money, and will help for the SAT.
*Finish SAT and/or ACT and SAT subject tests by the end of junior year when the material is fresh. I WAS SO GRATEFUL SENIOR YEAR, when I didn’t have to worry about testing while applying for colleges.
Choose activities that interest you. It makes long school days much more bearable, and it will show in interviews what clubs you’re passionate about.
Have a stress reliever hobby. Mine were music (piano, guitar, drums) and art. Double the points for skills acknowledged by others you can brag about in applications.
Show leadership, but more importantly, show initiative. As in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, there’s usually not enough time to consider every qualified applicant, and the one to ask for the job will become qualified. Also, there’s no way to be fully qualified to do every job, just learn as you go. That being said, high school club politics are easy- who’s interested, approachable, and dedicated to the club? I ended up the leader of 4 clubs (Robotics, Art, French, Model UN) by negotiating co-president agreements with both the teacher and the other club leaders.
Target teachers for recommendations based on their knowledge of you and your personality, not on the subject they teach. Grades told colleges I could study, but my recommendations told them about me as a person. I had a biology teacher and a French teacher write all of my recommendations for mechanical engineering.
Find ONE person, confidant with writing, to edit essays. Too many edits dilutes the voice and opinions could conflict.
Have some fun. I targeted interpersonal skills as something to work on personally, and the only way to learn them is to have some semblance of a social life. Being personable will get you everywhere in life. For me, I will choose to go see a movie 9 out of 10 times, regardless if my science fair presentation is the day after, because I will remember the day I went to see the movies the night before science fair, and not the science fair presentation. On the other hand, I had 90% of the project done, and I was confident in my ability to throw together a poster last minute and wing the presentation, so it wasn’t complete neglect.
There are no guarantees when applying to the most selective schools. The reject and the admit pile share the same stats. I might not have the right to say this because of my success, but I feel that if I wasn’t accepted and had to go to my state school for financial reasons, I would still be okay with my decisions in high school, because I balanced studying hard with playing hard.