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?
As you take on the time-consuming task of figuring out what institution will be the right fit for you, it’s important to get a jumpstart 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 guidance counselor to fire the starting pistol. Don’t wait for others to direct your process: seek out materials, answers, and timetables on your own!
Don’t wait for colleges and universities 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.
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.
Don’t wait to be corrected
While many college application processes or scholarship requirements are similar, they each have important differences to which you need to pay attention. Don’t rely on your admission counselor or guidance 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 e-mail and ask if there are any pieces missing. 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 on October 1 (the prior year)—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.