10 Tips for High School Seniors Getting Ready to Apply to Top-Tier Colleges

These ten quick hints will help make the application process as stress-free as possible.

1. Create a spreadsheet that includes all of your school choices and your “to do” list: Writing essays, keeing track of supplements, gathering transcripts (many schools use a service like parchment.com — I have found this service provides an easy and high-quality way to expedite transcripts).  Include all the deadlines and note which schools you are applying for Early Decision, Early Action or Regular Decision.


2. Use the summer to complete the more tedious parts of the Common Application.It will reopen the summer before you begin your senior year. This is also a the time to narrow down your school choices if you haven’t done so already.


3. Schedule time to apply to the UC system schools, if those schools are on your short list.The University of California Application will open on October 1, and they give you a very small application window — November 1 – November 30 — but you can apply to many schools with just the one application. Each school also has its own supplements, so build in the time you need to complete the applications.


4. Prepare and budget time to apply to schools outside the UC system and schools that do not use the Common App. Note the schools that don’t use the Common App, and be sure you are prepared to apply to these schools directly.


5. Plan three to four hours a week to work on your applications. Most of my clients begin with their Common Application essay. Remember that this essay will be read by all the Common App schools to which you apply, and you won’t be able to reuse its contents in your supplemental essays.


6. Brainstorm essay concepts with someone whose judgment you trust:A parent, a teacher, a counselor, a consultant, or a family friend whose writing you admire.  I don’t suggest using your peers for this exercise.  If you pushed your boundaries in prior years, you will have good material to write about.  You need to believe that you are an interesting person and that the admissions director would want to have a 5-course meal with you, not just a 5-minute conversation.


7. Outline your essays and begin to write. Ask for feedback.  Have someone look at your application and essays for editing, typos, grammar and sentence structure.  When you are satisfied with the outcome, make sure you upload clean copies of your essays into the application.  Continue this process until you have completed all your applications.  Early applications are due in September or October, and Regular Decisions are due in January.  Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your application.


8. Check and recheck with your recommendersto make certain they have submitted their reference. Retake the SAT or ACT, if necessary, before you submit your application.


9. Make certain everything on the application is complete before you submit.


10. Continue your good study habits and your leadership at school.  Universities will ask for a mid-term report before rendering a final decision.

Your decisions will begin to roll in, and you will be on your way to a new journey that will likely be the best four years of your life.

Good luck!


Author bio: Natalie Grinblatt Epstein is an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur, and former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey. Natalie will be happy to assist you with your college applications.

This article was originally published on the Accepted Admissions Blog


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  • Linda Abraham

    Linda Abraham is the founder and CEO of Accepted, the top-tier admissions consultancy that helps you unlock your competitive advantage. Linda has written or co-authored 13 ebooks on the college admissions process. In 2007, she co-founded the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC) and became its first president. For the last 20 years Linda and her highly credentialed, experienced team have helped thousands of applicants get accepted to top colleges and graduate schools worldwide, including but not limited to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg, and MIT. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, US News, The Sunday Times of London, Businessweek, Poets & Quants and MBA Podcaster.

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