High School Juniors and Seniors Should Begin College Application Process Now E-mail
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Written by Steven Ward   
Wednesday, 21 August 2013 14:49

The 2013-2014 school year is just around the corner for La Mirada High School, and as incoming seniors and juniors, many students will begin to prepare for the challenging college application process that dominates much of their first semester.

Summer is at its end; August is the month of procrastination. Incoming seniors will have heard a great deal about college applications and personal statements, but very few will have even taken the opportunity to even glance at them. It is a daunting task, one that is not easily juggled between other responsibilities such as schoolwork, extracurricular activities, sports, and even work. However, the importance is self-evident.

As August winds down, students should have a general understanding of which colleges and universities they will be applying to, as applications do cost money to submit. Glancing over the applications you will find that, with the exception of the personal statements and any supplemental questions, they are relatively easy to fill out.

Applications for each college and university are available online and submitted electronically: California Community Colleges (cccapply.org), California State Colleges (csumentor.edu), University of California colleges (universityofcalifornia.edu/apply), and the Common Application which is used by most private colleges and universities nationwide (commonapp.org).

Of these, only University of California, or UC, campuses and most private colleges require personal statements. Privates will usually also have supplemental questions that can range from short answers to 500-word essays. This is why it is imperative for students to become familiar now with the applications they intend to fill out and submit.

Personal statements can be complex to write, and require revisions and revisions to complete. They cannot be pulled together a few days or even a week or two before the application deadline—students who attempt this almost always admit that their personal statement was half-hearted and done with little effort.

Students need to understand that the college admissions staffs that review applications only see the student through the GPA, classes, extracurricular activities, and the various other items on their file that they’ve completed. The personal statement is intended to be that personal and creative window between the person reading the application and the student.

As a result, the person chosen to proofread and provide feedback on your rough draft is just as important; you should have teachers, coaches, family members, and even friends in mind. This is also why it is immensely important to finish your statement with ample time left, I’ve seen students spend weeks writing a statement, only to have it proofread and realize that they want to write it about a different topic. There must be plenty of time to have it proofread and to revise it.

UC campuses rarely change their personal statement prompts. Students applying to them will need to complete both of their two prompts, which are available to view on their website.

Letters of recommendation are the second most complex task in filling out college applications. Students should have begun compiling a “brag sheet” their junior year that includes a summary of their academic performance throughout high school (classes taken, GPA, awards) as well extracurricular activities, volunteer service, and any other achievements or personal qualities. The student would then give this “brag sheet” to the individual they wanted to write the letter.

It is important for students to understand that they are not the only ones asking for letters, and that the sooner they inform the person they intend to ask, the better. Individuals like teachers or counselors are going to receive a multitude of recommendation requests, and waiting until the last minute only increases the chances of not getting one.

As for the infamous SAT (collegeboard.com) and ACT (act.org) tests, students still have a number of opportunities to complete them. Most students attempt both, as many find either one or the other easier, however they need only take one and will eventually need to select which to put on their college applications. Community Colleges do not require SAT or ACT scores.

With only a week left in the month of August and enrollment just around the corner, students need to take advantage of what little free time they have right now to be proactive and begin the application process as soon as possible. I speak from experience when I say the next four months will be a blur of college related deadlines and stress regardless, the only way to reduce the amount of pressure on making those deadlines is to start now.



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