This article is directed towards underclassman who are looking to get a head start on preparing for college as well as seniors who are in full blown college panic mode. Please read which section applies to you.
For Proactive Underclassmen:
Let’s face it – high school is weird. One second you’re trying to find your classes on the first day as a freshman, and the next you’re sitting in front of a college application and panicking about the fact that your future is right around the corner. As people who have already blown through the first three years of their time here at FHS and have found themselves at the panic stage, we’d like to share with you a few pieces of advice we wished we’d listened to at the start of all this. Enjoy!
Get involved. When colleges decide who to accept, they’re not just looking for the perfect student academically. They also want someone who’s well-rounded, passionate and willing to get involved in their community. So how do you show them that when the time comes to fill out your application? Get involved! Extracurriculars are not only a great way to meet new people and try new things, they also are a great way to show colleges what you’re passionate about right when they read your application. So go ahead, go to that informational meeting for a club that sparked your interest. You’ll thank yourself later.
Don’t give up! There will come a time in your high school career when you find yourself in a class that you don’t think you can pass. You’ll be tempted to drop it for an easy A, thinking that it will look better on your transcript. Don’t. Or at least, don’t do so unless you really need to. When it comes to your transcript (that’s the thing that lists all the classes you’ve taken and the semester grades you got), colleges don’t just look for straight A’s. They also look at the classes you’ve taken and how much you’ve challenged yourself, as well as whether or not you gave up when things got too difficult. So a B in AP US History might mean more to a college than an A in regular US History, and taking German 4 with a lower grade will say more about your perseverance as a student than if you dropped it to spare your GPA. Most colleges want students who will not only be able to handle their classes, but will also have the determination necessary to handle something. Developing that perseverance now will definitely pay off later.
For Panicking Seniors
We strongly advise attending the Senior Post High School Seminars guidance is providing for Seniors during October. The schedule for the seminars can be found here. Otherwise here is some basic information you should know.
Factors in picking a school: Do you find yourself with no idea as to where you want to go college or what you want to do? That’s okay, the key is that you can still control your situation at this point. If you pick the right colleges to apply to and keep your options open later on you won’t be regretting not taking opportunities while you still could have.
When picking which schools to apply to keep these things in mind (SAMS).
Size: Do you want a large 50,000+ Public School or a 3,000 students and under Private School? Determining the size of the college you want is essentially the first step to narrowing down your many choices.
Academics: This is where you will need to have at least a slight idea of what you want to major in, although this is not necessary at this point. Basically if you know you might want to major in business, don’t go to a liberal arts school. If you have no clue what you want to do perhaps consider a bigger school that has strong programs in many academic areas so it will be easier to switch majors if needed.
Money: If a school’s price point is unrealistic for you consider why you are thinking about the school. Only apply to schools you could realistically go to. Research the types of scholarships and aid that are available at the schools you are looking at first before you fall in love with a school you can’t afford.
Setting: Do you want a school in a big city or in the middle of nowhere? Do you want the school to have a sports oriented feel or a more academic feel? Determining what type of atmosphere you want to live in is a major factor in picking a school.
Deciding When To Apply:This is also key to keeping your opportunities open. For some schools there are advantages to applying early. While many UW schools don’t have early admission deadlines like some private and other public schools do there is still a priority deadline for optimal housing and financial aid. Just because there might be an application deadline in March for the school you’re interested in doesn’t mean you should wait until then. Please research what admission deadlines are right for you before it’s too late.
Essays: Many colleges require the Common Application Essay and/or supplemental essays. Here are some essay tips.
- Start Early– College essays require introspection and lots of revision. Leave yourself time so that you can wait a week to let drafts “sit” before you revise them. So GO NOW and write a draft, just start writing anything to start getting ideas down.
- Get the right type of feedback- Pick a well rounded panel to revise your essay. Some good examples include: your English teacher (for grammar), your best friend (to see if the essay sounds like “you”), your parents (they’ve been through this before and are crucial in the application process), and your sibling(s) if applicable (for that honest brutal feedback).
- Read Examples– If you find yourself stuck on what to write read some example essays to see what directions you could take. A great site for college essay examples is www.teenink.com
- Pick the right prompt/pick the right topic- If your school has different essay options think carefully about which prompt will allow you to reveal the most about yourself. If you pick a prompt and find yourself staring at it for hours on end with nothing coming to mind perhaps consider switching prompts.
- Don’t be afraid to completely trash essays- If you hate an essay you wrote throw it out. Don’t view this as wasted time either, it may take you 3 or 4 different essays to get the perfect version.
Scholarships: Many scholarships have deadlines in December or late November. Being proactive now can help you from missing out on scholarships you could have easily received if you had known about them. A good place to start is the FHS Scholarship Hotsheet.
College Confidential: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/
Students Review: http://www.studentsreview.com/
These websites are very helpful because they are from real students and parents. Often university websites only tell you what they want you to hear. You can get a feel for the whole atmosphere of a college by reading information from these sites.
Best of Luck!