Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Why So Serious?" When you should start preparing

This one goes out to all the underclassmen. Are all your friends already preparing for college? Do you feel lost in the whole process? When should you start?

Again, I speak from experience when I say this: start extracurricular activities from freshman year. In a later blog, we'll explain which activities you should get involved in, and how much you should participate in them. However, remember that it's never too late to get involved. See the "extracurricular activities" blog for more information.

As far as visiting schools is concerned, I did not start until the summer going into senior year, and even then I only visited about four of the ten to which I applied. This, however, was a big mistake . I advise that you visit schools from the middle of your junior year. Colleges like that you express a genuine interest in them. When you do visit the schools, always take a guided tour, and make sure they get your name. They usually have some sort of sign up sheet for the tours in which you provide your information (name, address, etc). You want a place on their records; this is one way to differentiate yourself from the application pool. There's almost always a place on the application, be it an essay or short answer, where you say what about the school appeals to you, and visiting will definitely help. As a bonus, they sometimes give application-fee waivers for visiting. Visit your reach and match schools.

Make sure you ask for letters of recommendation from teachers before senior year (such as the end of junior year AT LATEST). Teachers have a myriad of these to write, and you want yours to be given extra time; a full summer is copious. You should start the actual applications at the end of the summer / beginning of your senior year. This will give you ample time for early decision / action and essay writing. More about that later.

Timeline Recap:
Extracurriculars: All throughout high school; never too late to start
Visiting schools: middle of junior year; the prime time is your spring break when schools are in session
Recommendation Letters: By the end of junior year
Applying: Beginning of senior year

We'll go in depth in later blogs on all these subjects. Also, feel free to send questions by commenting on this blog, the Open Discussion blog, or by email.

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