Ten Reasons to Start the College Process Early

Starting the college process early comes with multiple advantages but most importantly, it eliminates the unknown and provides plenty of time for planning.   Here are some other reasons to start sooner rather than later: 

Find the perfect fit and build a better college list.  In the COVID world where visiting college campuses presents a challenge, take advantage of virtual tours and open houses.  This will assist your teen in determining what they are looking for in a college. They can listen to current college students share their campus experiences while admissions counselors describe programming unique to each college.

Know what to expect.  As students start to develop their potential college list, they can begin to identify what colleges are looking for in applicants.  This gives them enough time to improve their GPA, develop a solid resume, take SAT Subject Tests if needed, and create a portfolio if required. 

Letters of recommendation.  Most colleges require at least one to two letters of recommendation from teachers, preferably from those a student had junior year.  Knowing this  allows students ample time to work on establishing connections with teachers they will need to turn to for recommendations. 

Honors and specialty programs. Both of these typically require additional academic requirements and essays. Having time available to plan for both affords students opportunities they may not otherwise have.  For example, pre-med students applying to the Special Program in Medicine at University of Connecticut need additional letters of recommendation specific to the field of medicine, have a higher GPA requirement, and need to write three additional essays.  Develop a list of programs in which your child is interested along with admission criteria.

Write a memorable college essay.  Starting early guarantees a quality essay! It takes time to find and develop a topic for the college essay.  Students also discover as they start completing their supplemental applications that other essays may be required.  Some college applicants are faced with writing ten or more essays.  Researching which schools have additional essays and developing drafts will alleviate stress in the writing process.

Determine how to apply.  Does the college use the Common Application or have its own application?  Will your child apply early action, commit to applying early decision, or apply regular decision?  What are the deadlines?  Although most of this information isn’t released until August of each application year, having an idea of what the potential deadlines are will help in planning ahead. 

The extras.  Do the schools on your future college students list offer interviews?  Meetings with a student panel?  Facetime with current students?  If so, take advantage of these opportunities.  Your child will not only have an opportunity to learn more about the college, but demonstrate their genuine interest in attending the school as well.

Merit scholarships and financial aid.  Learn early what is required to receive merit scholarship money or if the college even offers merit awards.  If you are planning on applying for financial aid, the applications are generally available in October but map out specific deadlines for each college to which your child plans to apply.  Note if additional items are required such as a CSS Profile and begin preparing materials at least one month ahead of projected deadlines.

Plan B:  Hurricanes, wildfires, pandemics….the events of 2020 have emphasized the unpredictable nature of life.  Be prepared, have a Plan B.  This could be taking a gap year, attending a local community college, or committing to a financial safety school instead of the dream college–just make a plan.

Added bonus.  Relax and enjoy senior year with your soon to be college freshman!

Not sure where to start or looking for tips? Join College Planning 411’s free webinar,  Strategies to Win the College Admissions Game scheduled for Thursday, February 11 at 6:30 pm EST. Hope to see you there!

Interested in attending the “Strategies to Win the College Admissions Game” webinar?  Register before Monday, February 8 and be entered into a drawing for a chance to the following:

First Prize!  Writer’s Block Package valued at $600  Five one-hour sessions of guidance, brainstorming, and editing in the completion of the Common Application essay and supplemental essays as time allows.

Second Prize!  MIni Writer’s Block Package valued at $300  Five thirty-minute sessions of guidance, brainstorming, and editing in the completion of the Common Application essay.

Third Prize!  Jump Start Package valued at $180  Over the course of three thirty-minute sessions, we will determine where you are in the college application process and provide strategic guidance in next steps. 

The three lucky winners will be announced and notified at the end of the “Strategies to Win the College Admissions Game” webinar on Thursday, February 11.  YOU could be the lucky winner!  Register now!

Unable to attend?  Register to receive a recording of the webinar and you will still be entered into the raffle!



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