College Admissions

Archive for August, 2011

Starting Your College Applications Now Will Mean Less Stress During Senior Year

Friday, August 5th, 2011

School will be starting soon, and for seniors who will be applying to college, the more they get done now, the less stress they will have throughout the fall. There are a lot of tasks to be completed when you’re applying to college and the process can feel overwhelming. It’s important to make a list of everything you need to do, and then you can create a schedule.

There are a number of changes this year which will impact the college application process. University of Southern California has joined the Common Application. The good news is students won’t have to complete a separate USC application (although there will still be a USC supplement). The not so good news is that applications are likely to increase, resulting in a lower acceptance rate.

University of California will no longer require scores from two Subject Tests. That doesn’t mean you should forget about Subject Tests, since strong scores will enhance your UC application, and they could be important if you are applying to certain programs, including engineering. Subject Tests are still required or recommended at a number of highly selective colleges.

While UC, California State University and many other public colleges don’t require recommendations, you will need a teacher recommendation for any school using the Common Application. Teachers can be overwhelmed with requests, and some limit the number of letters they will write, so be sure to ask your teacher early in the school year.

The Common Application is online now. Start filling out the basic information like name, address and high school. There’s something very satisfying about finishing at least part of the application, and once you are in application mode, it may be easier to get into the essays.

While the UC and Cal State applications won’t open until October 1, the UC personal statement prompts are available now at

Your goal in an application essay is to convey something you want admissions officers to know about you that they won’t learn from the rest of the application. You may need to go through several ideas before you find one that works. Keep brainstorming until you’re excited, because if you’re excited about writing an essay, it’s more likely to be exciting for the reader.

It helps to break the process into manageable parts. For each essay you might schedule several days for brainstorming ideas, a week to write a first draft, and another week to revise the first draft.  I tell my students that essays don’t take shape until the third, fourth or even fifth draft. This process takes time and that’s why you need to start now.

Give yourself a final deadline for each application that is at least one week and preferably two weeks before the real deadline, so that you have built in some extra time in case you get off schedule because of a major test or paper. Having your applications completed well before deadlines will mean less stress for everyone in the family.