Time for college planning

By Bella Campbell

Last year, a senior asked me if I knew what college I wanted to attend. I said I had no idea.

She smiled and said that she had been the same way, although the smile quickly disappeared. She stressed the importance of figuring it out before I start applying, ideally before summer ended.

But do young people ever take their elders’ words seriously? II  still don’t know, and people are asking me the same question, expecting a serious answer now, and I don’t know.

So, if you find yourself not knowing where you want to go to college or what you want to do with your life, in the midst of self-assured people, then we are in the same boat, my friends.

It’s college application season, and another generation of seniors is gearing up for the task of applying for scholarships and colleges.

Come one, come all— let’s get our activity resumes together.

Let’s gather our introspective essays and personal statements and application fee waivers.

A lot goes into college applications so think of this editorial as a sarcastic, magnificently condensed version of Janet McHenry’s Senior Issues class.

First, in getting ready for college, you should really take challenging classes like Advanced Placement courses. These classes give you an idea of the college rigor and what is expected. These classes also look very good on college applications and could potentially gain you college credit if you pass the College Board exams in May.

Next, take the PSAT. It’s a test that is designed to mimic the SAT, getting students used to the format and the types of questions expected on the SAT, only on a smaller scale. It’s important that you take the PSAT in the fall of your junior year and the SAT in the spring. Taking the SAT in the spring of your junior year allows you the chance to retake it in the fall of your senior year if you’re not happy with your scores.

Get educated about the academic requirements for admissions to colleges or universities you are thinking about applying to. For California public universities, it’s required to have two years of history, four years of English, three years of college prep math but four years recommended, two years of lab science but three recommended, two years of non-English language, one year of fine arts. California State Universities (CSU) and Universities of California (UC) usually require SAT Reasoning test and a 3.0 GPA in the a-g requirements only.

Next comes the application process. One or more of the following are required for most colleges: the formal application form, standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT scores, a current transcript, letter(s) of recommendation, essay(s) and an activities resume.

There are different options for applications.  Regular Decision is the traditional set deadline for the school. All acceptances are sent out after all applications are received and there is no obligation to attend. With Rolling Admission, the deadline for applications may continue through the winter until slots are filled. Decisions about acceptances are generally sent out within four to six weeks of getting the application. There is no obligation to attend if you get accepted. Early Decision is obligatory if you get accepted. The application date is earlier than that of Regular Decision. You can only apply to your top-choice school through Early Decision, because offers of admission are binding.  Early Action, on the other hand, is not a binding contract. You can change your mind and go to another school if you want. The deadlines are earlier, but you can apply to other schools through Early Action.

All colleges require your transcript. The transcript may be needed after your January semester grades and always after your June semester grades.

Private colleges require letters of recommendation. Only ask nonrelatives for letters of recommendations, such as a teacher, a mentor, a coach or a boss.

Ask at least a week in advance and consider any mailing time needed. Also, provide the person writing the letter with a copy of the portion of the application that requests the letter, your activities resume and an envelope with the address to where it’s supposed to be mailed.

Most private colleges and the University of California require essays. Keep the focus of your essay narrow and personal, but write about something that cannot be found somewhere else in the application. Be sure to proofread and have another person also proofread.

An activities resume is required by some private colleges. Activities resumes list high school awards, volunteer work, leadership/club activities, sports and work experience.

College visits can be very helpful in making an informed decision about what college to attend. By visiting a college campus you may be able to pick up free materials at the Prospective Students office, get a tour of the campus, visit classes in session, meet a financial aid officer there, and ultimately get a feel for community and opportunities.

It’s important for seniors to get started and avoid later last-minute stress. If you are not a senior, be thankful, but seriously start thinking about college.


Posted on September 26, 2014, in Op-ed and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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