With the end of the school year quickly approaching, the topic of college applications is on the minds of many Maclay juniors. Knowing where to start in the process can be difficult, so it is important to set up a plan to avoid stressful situations. Most students are preoccupied with taking standardized tests and AP courses, but there are a variety of other things to also consider throughout the application process. Whether you are a junior currently working on your applications or a sophomore or freshman looking ahead, here are some tips to utilize when applying for college. 

  1. Make a list of colleges you plan to apply to. 

When deciding what colleges to apply to, start by determining what is important to you in a college. Some people may want to attend a bigger school, while others prefer a smaller environment. Sports teams, diversity and education are a few of the many things to consider when choosing what schools to apply to. Having safety schools can also help reduce stress, but when picking safety schools, they should still be places you would be willing to attend. While it may be tempting to apply to many colleges, try not to overwhelm yourself with filling out applications. Instead, write down when each application is due to pace yourself. By limiting the amount of schools you apply to, you will be able to make sure you are submitting quality work. 

  1. Start asking for letters of recommendation early.

Teachers have very busy schedules and often have to write letters of recommendation for multiple students. If you ask your teachers to write you a letter of recommendation by the end of the current school year, it will guarantee them plenty of time to write yours. While waiting for your letter, check in with your teachers to see where they are in writing your letter, and tell them the exact date you need it by so you can make sure you have it when you are submitting applications. When asking your teacher, do it in person and later send them your resume to help give them information to write about. Finally, thank your teachers for writing you a letter by taking time out of their schedules to do so. 

  1. Perfect your resume. 

Many colleges will allow you to submit your resume, so it is important to make sure it properly reflects you and your accomplishments. Even the colleges that do not let you submit resumes will still ask you to list your achievements, so having a completed resume will help you fill out those sections. The resume that juniors built during the Junior Interview Series is a great place to start, and Dean of Upper School Student Life Heather Bas and other teachers are great resources to go to for help. 

  1. Essay. Essay. Essay. 

Your college essay is arguably one of the most important parts of the college application process, especially as more schools go test optional. It gives you the opportunity to show admissions officers what makes you truly special and what you would bring to their university. Your essay should be unique from other supplemental questions you may answer, and it should reflect on something meaningful to you. There is a common misconception that admissions essays need to be about some sort of trauma. Colleges want to see you look back on something that has changed you and how you have grown from that experience, no matter how insignificant it seems. By starting on your essay early, you will have time to receive feedback from teachers and college counselors who can help you refine your ideas and give you another set of eyes to review your work. 

  1. Prioritize supplemental questions. 

Supplemental questions are another way to showcase what is important to you and why you want to be at the college you are applying to. In these questions, finding a unique angle to things you are proud of, such as work with a club, and talking about all the ways in which it impacted you is key. When colleges ask why you want to apply to their university, take the time to research specific things about the school that you are genuinely interested in, such as special programs or resources offered to students. By finding something genuine that you like about the school, it will make it easier to talk about it in your supplemental questions and show the colleges that you have done your research. 

  1. Show demonstrated interest. 

While not all colleges look at demonstrated interest, it is important to take the extra step to show that you are interested. With Covid-19, schools are now offering virtual information sessions, making it even easier to connect to colleges without having to travel for a tour. Additionally, take the time to read the emails they send you and accept any resources they offer. This will show that you are seriously considering their school as one of your options. Plus, attending sessions and reading up on a school can help you learn about interesting things that you may not have previously known. 

  1. Utilize college counseling. 

Maclay’s Co-Directors of College Counseling Matthew Cave and Daron Gallina are here to help students through the entirety of the college application process. Throughout the summer, you can ask them questions that may come up, especially regarding what schools to apply to. They will also help read over your essay, resume and supplemental questions to make sure they are their best quality for submission. Be comfortable communicating regularly with your college counselors, as they will be very supportive while you begin the applying process. 


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