College Prep, Less Stress

Teacher with students in the classroom

8 Tips for a Smooth College Application Season

While high school seniors await responses from prospective colleges, sophomores and juniors are in the early preparation stages of designing their college application path. Mid-Pen hosted its annual College Information Night on Wednesday to help the school’s tenth and eleventh-grade families better understand the application process.

Dave Richardson, the school’s Academic Director and College Advisor, led the session and provided attendees with a thorough breakdown of what to expect and how to plan for the years ahead.

Here’s a recap of eight essential tips for students when they prepare for college application season:

Make yourself known to colleges. Colleges note when prospective students take school tours, visit at college fairs, and contact the school with questions. When they receive an application, the admissions team will know a prospective student is serious about their school.

Create a timeline for yourself. “Decide when you’ll visit schools, when will you finish your applications, write your essays, and so on,” said Dave.

Know your deadlines. While most schools use the Common App, some schools––especially out-of-state schools––use different application forms, and you need to take note of these different dates.

Visit college campuses. Dave noted that in our area, students could visit a wide variety of universities––urban, small, state, rural, private––to determine what kind of school feels right. Dave encouraged students to visit school cafeterias to make sure the food is good and to visit different dorms to understand the array of living options.

“Do the school tour, but give yourself enough time to see other parts of the school on your own. The most important part of the visit is to make sure the school is in session," he said. "It can be totally different when no one is on campus. You want to feel the life of the school.”

Take your time on college applications. “Do it right,” said Dave, “That’s why we look at them...to make sure they’re correct.” Understand what each college requires as part of your application––it’s common for each school to have different essays, but some may require a subject-matter SAT. And while applications should be completed with great care, it’s important to submit them as early as possible. “Don’t wait until the deadline,” said Dave. “Get it done as well before the deadline.”

Have a personal email address and check it frequently during the application season. While students rely on texting via social apps for communication, colleges rely on email. Dragons should have a personal email account and get in the habit of checking it regularly. You don’t want to miss an opportunity because you failed to check your email!

Take SAT and ACT practice tests. Take a full-length practice tests and use the test format that is most comfortable for you. “More and more schools are going test-optional. But you should take one, and if you do, include those scores in your application. Even if the school doesn’t use them to make a decision, they still can see the scores––and that could help you.” 

Students could use SAT or ACT apps on their smartphones to help them improve their text performance. Several apps are available using the search terms “SAT daily” and “ACT daily.”

Get a head start on your personal statements. “The personal statement is the hardest part,” said Dave. “If you get it done early, your application is ninety percent done––then the application is a snap." Mid-Pen hosts a one-week college essay writing class over the summer for students entering their senior year. "Dragons who attend the summer finish the week with a solid essay that we fine-tune during their senior year.”

But above all, said Dave, Dragons must be their best selves: “Don’t settle on being a marginal student. Set out to be the best student you can be.”