Originally Posted: Aug 11, 2014
Last Updated: Jul 2, 2020
As many of you begin your senior year, you’re bound to have numerous responsibilities and opportunities bidding for your attention. You’re sure to hear a lot about colleges, scholarships, essays, and more—but how do you sort through all the choices you’re about to have thrown at you and focus on what’s important? Be proactive.
As you take on the time-consuming task of figuring out what college or university will be the right fit for you, it’s important to get a jumpstart on whatever possible, whenever possible. Many of you may have already started your search process over this past summer or even earlier, while others of you are waiting for your school counselor to fire the starting pistol. Don’t wait for others to direct your process: seek out materials, do your research, and start figuring out what you want from a college on your own! Here are three things you shouldn’t wait for someone else to tell you to do.
1. Don’t wait for schools to come to you
If you know you have an interest in an institution, check out their website, sign up for their mailings, or call the admission counselor assigned to your territory. There are a ton of schools out there, but, fortunately or unfortunately, there are also a ton of students fighting for those institutions’ attention. If you wait for a college to visit your high school or to come to a local fair, you may not have the opportunity to get the one-on-one time you need to learn more about a particular school. Start your research early, and maintain your research often—you never know what important information could reveal itself as time passes that changes your perspective on a school.
2. Don’t wait for deadlines
As the fall begins, you’re going to have an onslaught of application deadlines, scholarship deadlines, and more. Not only should you be proactive in writing up a college application or a scholarship essay because you’re more likely to do your best work if you don't rush, but you should also be proactive to allow time for a teacher to proofread your work. A college essay riddled with grammatical errors or incorrect use of “their,” “they’re,” and “there” is not going to help your efforts. It’s also worth noting that some institutions give priority to students who submit their information ahead of time. The key to deadlines is setting your own personal deadline ahead of the official one so you never miss one.
3. Don’t wait for others organize your materials
While many college applications processes or scholarship requirements are similar, they each have important differences to which you need to pay attention. Don’t rely on your admission or school counselor to have to seek you out to obtain the missing credential necessary to complete your application. If you think you should have heard back with an admission decision, proactively call or email and ask if there are any pieces missing to your application. Sometimes, even if you enclosed all the necessary items, an institution may misplace a credential and the file sits as “incomplete” because, unbeknownst to you, there’s a letter of recommendation missing that you weren’t responsible for losing. By checking in for status updates here and there, you can ensure you’re being considered and that nothing has accidentally gone awry.
Ultimately, being proactive in your college search process only benefits you, regardless of the task. Making a college visit well before the last date available, submitting your application for admission a week after it goes “live” on the institution’s website, filing your FAFSA right on October 1—each of these proactive measures will help you. And if for whatever reason something is messed up, you'll have more time to fix the issue before any potential deadlines (or opportunities) are missed. The early bird gets the worm, and the proactive student gets the most out of their opportunities.
Find out what your colleges of interest want to see in your application with the advice in our College Admission section!