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               Gearing Up for Senior Year

Getting Ready to Apply to Top Tier Colleges and Universities

Tips for High School Seniors

1. Create a spreadsheet that includes all of your school choices and your “to do” list like writing essays, supplements, gathering transcripts (many schools use a service like and I have found this service to provide an easy and high quality solution needed to expedite transcripts). Note all the deadlines and to which schools you are applying for Early Decision, Early Action or Regular Decision.

2. Use the summer to complete the more tedious parts of the Common Application. It will reopen the summer before you begin your senior year. Narrow down your school choices if you haven’t done so already.

3. Calendar time to apply to the UC system schools, if those schools are on your short-list. The University of California Application will open on October 1 and they give you a very small window to apply to the schools (November 1-November 30) but you can apply to many schools with the one application. Each school also has its own supplements, so build the time you need to complete the applications.

4. Prepare and schedule time to apply to schools outside the UC system and schools that do not use the Common App. Note the schools that don’t subscribe to the common app and make certain that you are prepared to apply to these schools directly.

5. Build in 3-4 hours a week to work on your applications. Most of my clients begin with their common application essay. Remember that this essay will be read by all the common app schools to which you apply, and you won’t be able to reuse its contents in your supplemental essays.

6. Brainstorm essay concepts with someone whose judgment you trust: a parent, a teacher, a counselor, a consultant, or a family friend whose writing you admire. I don’t suggest using your peers for this exercise. If you pushed your boundaries in prior years, you will have good material to write about. You need to believe that you are an interesting person and that the admissions director would want to have a 5-course meal with you, not just a 5-minute conversation.

7. Outline your essays and begin to write. Ask for feedback. Have someone look at your application and essays for editing, typos, grammar, and sentence structure. When you are satisfied with the outcome, make sure you upload clean copies of your essays into the application. Continue this process until you have completed all your applications. Early applications are due in September or October and Regular Decisions are due in January. Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application.

8. Make certain everything on the application is complete before you submit.

9. Check and recheck with your recommenders to make certain they have submitted their reference.

10. Retake the SAT or ACT, if necessary, before you submit your application.

11. Continue your good study habits and your leadership at school. Universities will ask for a mid-term report before rendering a final decision.

12. Interviews: if the school offers you the opportunity to interview with an alumnus/alumna…take it. Interviews give you an opportunity to showcase your personality. These interviews will not make or break your application, but if your candidacy is no clear cut, a good interview may be all you need to be on the right side of the committee’s decision.

Your decisions will begin to roll in and you will be on your way to a new journey that will likely be the best four years of your life. Good luck!