Haley: Get ready to apply for college | TheUnion.com

Haley: Get ready to apply for college

Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

If it seems that college applications open earlier every year, you are right! This year for the first time, the University of California opened their applications to the public Aug. 1. This is two months earlier than in previous years.

Why the early start date? “The fall is an incredibly busy time for students who are balancing a number of priorities,” said Stephen Handel, associate vice president of UC undergraduate admissions. “By giving applicants more flexibility, we think the process will be less stressful.”

But for many seniors who are adjusting to the new school year, this early date creates more stress as they scramble to finalize their college list. Indications are that the early application cycle at the UC’s may be to capture some of the most sought after students that are now applying early to private schools.

The Common Application (CA) is an application where students can apply to more than 500 colleges and universities. Many of the most selective schools in the country now offer early admissions through the CA. Early applications at colleges are typically due before the end of November.

So what should students be doing now to prepare to submit their applications?

Organizing deadlines is essential. Even the best application will not be read if it is submitted after the deadline.

Completing college admissions tests is vital. Students must send their ACT and/or their SAT scores directly to the college from the testing website. It is not enough to list the scores on the application.

Although the UC and the California State Universities do not require letters of recommendation, the private colleges do. Asking teachers early is mandatory and giving them “talking points” in the form of an academic resume or letter of recommendation form will result in a more informative and personal letter.

Crafting a winning essay is also high on the college applicant’s stress list. They know the essay is pivotal in many admission’s offices and can set them apart from other applicants with similar SAT/ACT scores.

When writing your essay you will need time to brainstorm, outline, revise, get feedback and revise again. Ask for advice, but do not let someone else write your essay. Colleges look for an authentic student voice. Make sure you answer the prompts. Even the most beautifully written essay will be discarded if the student fails to address the question.

Colleges with early admissions often have early scholarship deadlines as well. Students should check each college website to see when institutional scholarships are due.

Although parents cannot file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) until Jan. 1, many colleges with early deadlines will request an estimate of financial information prior to Jan. 1. Last year’s tax statement may be the best source of information for this.

Being organized and informed is the best way of saving a lot of stress come deadline day. Let the application cycle begin!

Jill Haley is a retired school counselor, who now works as an independent college counselor. She can be reached at http://www.getyouintocollege.com or jillncca@gmail.com.

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