According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 66.2% of high school students enroll in college—but before a student can step into their first lecture or log onto their first ZOOM meeting, they have to apply.
“I think it can get very overwhelming sometimes,” Ellen Silverstrand, college and career counselor, said. Most college deadlines are around Nov. 1, and materials from the counseling department need to be requested by October 15.
“Not being afraid to start,” according to college and career counselor Jennedy Lombard, is the most important step for juniors and seniors looking to continue their education.
“Colleges can’t do anything until they have your application,” Silverstrand said.
Lombard recommended starting early, a little at a time, to not get overwhelmed. For seniors, she said “being organized is super helpful.” One way of doing this is checking your email to be aware of opportunities.
Students can look out for the college fair in October, as well as visits from schools during the day, which are open to upperclassmen, as well as sophomores with specific interests or goals in mind.
Planning for college throughout high school is useful, too: Lombard recommended, “(Freshmen and sophomores) take classes that are interesting to them.” The types of classes are important, along with extracurricular activities, which “help you become who you are… any opportunity to show leadership is great,” she said.
“Colleges want their students to do well there,” Silverstrand said, and “want you to be able to meet the benchmarks.” Having a well-rounded resume is typically a green flag for schools.
As for seniors, the Common Application is used by many, and is a way to see what certain colleges are looking for. It’s available as a website and an app and is growing in popularity. “See if the schools you’re applying to are on the app,” Silverstrand said. If they are, information on the school and its applications will be available there, as well as links to apply. If a school isn’t registered into Common App, information can typically be found on its website.
Silverstrand said many colleges realized they were asked mainly the same questions, so compiled them into one resource. “It’s meant to be an easier way to apply,” she said.
Writing a college application essay, according to Silverstrand, can be one of the most stressful components—but is also a chance to show your personality. “When I was a college rep, essays were my favorite part… they’re the way you can add your voice to the application.” She said admissions offices see so many transcripts with grades, lists and numbers. The essay is where each applicant can stand out.
To write the essay, Silverstrand recommended students play to their strengths. “If you’re funny, be funny, but if you’re not, don’t try to be,” she said. The essay is a chance to show personality and to set oneself apart from other applicants. “Be who you are,” she said, “[and] find a way to convey that.” She said to ask yourself “What makes you, you?” and to make sure the essay reflects it.
Another component of a college application is the letter of recommendation: they may be from a teacher, counselor or other adult that works at the school. “Start thinking of teachers you would like to ask,” Silverstrand said. “Give the teachers enough notice.”
“Not all schools require them, some don’t want them and won’t read them,” Silverstrand said. It all depends on the college.
The ACT and SAT can also be useful: Lombard described them as “tools, but not requirements.” Although not mandated by all colleges, they can help to earn scholarship money. “I think some students are worried about how they’ll do,” Silverstrand said. “Just go for it.”
Have the score, just in case. Silverstrand pointed out that “you control” what goes into the application. Not all scores have to be reported—and not all colleges require them.
Silverstrand recommends treating college applications “just like any other project… taking small steps and working backwards from the deadline” can both be helpful methods to apply.
This will be Margaret Korte’s first year on ECHO staff. She made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year.