It's October and the academic year is already in full swing. That means your college admissions plan should be a priority as soon as you've adjusted to the new year. Before Halloween, you'll have a lot to do to make sure you stay on track. But fortunately, checklists like this can make it easier to check those college admissions tasks off your October to-do list.
Independent college counselors spend a lot of time working individually with students and families to help them navigate the college admissions process. College Confidential asked Jill Madenberg, independent educational consultant in Lake Success, N.Y., and co-author of Love the Journey to College and Kristina L. Dooley, founder of Estrela Consulting in Hudson, Ohio, their best tips for students for this month. Following is their best advice:
- Continue thinking about clubs and organizations you might be interested in joining, both in and out of school. Look ahead to winter and spring sports to determine if you might want to try out for a new team and if you'll be able to balance the schedule with your academic work.
- Evaluate the classes you are currently taking and assess your progress so far. If you are not feeling challenged, chat with your school counselor about options. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the rigor of a class, be sure to set up a time to speak with the teacher so you can figure out a plan to stay on track.
- Look for college fairs being held in your area and plan to attend. Ask your school counselor for suggestions and check out the NACAC National College Fairs and those being held via Colleges That Change Lives.
- Meet with college representatives visiting high schools.
- Get ready for the PSAT. This is the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship program, so be sure to take it seriously.
- Prioritize visiting colleges while in session. October and November are filled with days off from high school and provide great opportunities to visit schools.
- Continue prepping for any upcoming ACT or SAT tests.
- Develop testing strategy around your personal calendar and level of math. If you're a fall soccer player, spring may make more sense for testing.
- Register for a PIN at fafsa.ed.gov to apply for financial aid. The FAFSA will be available on Oct. 1.
- Continue working on college applications. Spend a lot of time on the supplements and activity sections.
- Complete Early Action and Rolling applications ASAP. Set a goal for yourself to have applications submitted one to two weeks before the actual deadlines. No one wants to spend Halloween night hitting "submit" on their applications! Submit them early to avoid stress.
- Work on Early Decision applications (if applicable) and be sure to watch deadlines from your school guidance office.
- Continue working on your supplemental essays for any schools to which you'll be applying Regular Decision.
- Follow up with your teachers and counselor to be sure they'll be submitting your recommendations and transcripts on time.
- Have ACT or SAT scores sent to the schools to which you're applying. Find out which schools will accept self-reported scores so you can save some money by not having to send official score reports.
- Remember that many colleges are tracking your demonstrated interest. Talk with admission reps, follow up with emails, click on links from colleges -- these are all easy ways to show colleges you are interested in them.
- In the coming weeks, confirm that your letters of recommendation have been processed correctly.
- Schedule interviews, when applicable.
- Visit and re-visit top contenders if considering Early Decision.
- Complete your CSS Profile, if required by colleges.
- Save all usernames and passwords in a safe place.
- Check your email daily.
- Block out time to finalize your applications during the month of October.
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