What Do I Do Now?!
At this point, just about everyone has started the school year. If you are starting your senior year, you have probably visited some colleges, taken some tours, sat in on some information sessions, and even spoken with some current students. After trying to digest all the names, numbers, facts, and figures, hopefully you have started to develop a list of schools you want to apply to. As an appeal to rationality in a very irrational time, let me just put this out there: try to only apply to schools where you can see yourself attending and being happy. That way, worst case scenario, you will be happy with every school you are admitted to.
So, you’ve done all this work to check out schools in person and online. What do you do now?
1. Meet with your college counselor – depending on your school and number of students in your class, senior year may be the first time you really work with your college counselor. Whether that’s the case or not, be sure to make an appointment with them. The more they know you, the type of schools you like, what you may want to study or be involved in, the better they can advise you and the more impactful letter of recommendation they can write for you.
2. Take advantage of college visits to your school – you visited us this summer, now we’re going to visit you! Check with your school’s guidance or college counseling office for a schedule of visits or local college fairs. Additionally, check some of your favorite colleges’ websites, as they may list their visit schedules, like we do. As the late summer and early fall progress, we will add more of the schools and cities we will be visiting this fall. Last year we visited 30 states, 34 countries, and 622 schools…there’s a good chance we’re coming to a town near you.
3. Decide when you want to apply – Some of the schools you are considering will have different types and dates for deadlines. For example, Babson will have Early Decision and Early Action deadlines of November 1st, and a Regular decision deadline of January 3rd. For Babson, and generally speaking, Early Decision is a binding agreement between an applicant and the college; if a student applies Early Decision and is admitted, the student is expected to attend that school in the fall. Early Action is more flexible, as students apply early, but still have until May 1st to decide if they would like to attend that particular school. Regular Decision has a later deadline, typically a larger applicant pool, and also has the May 1st enrollment deadline.
If you are thinking about Early Decision for any school, you will want to make sure that it is, without a doubt, your top choice for college. If you are thinking about Early Action, I usually suggest that the school be one of your top three choices. November 1st comes up a lot sooner than you think it will in a very busy senior year. Most students still apply Regular Decision, and is usually the right choice for students who want a little more time in their college search, want to show us first semester grades, or take a later SAT or ACT.
4. Meet with your college counselor – Yes, I know I included this twice, but it is because you will want to check in with them periodically about your college search and application. Also, depending on the size of your school, you may or may not know your counselor well or have chances to meet with them. If you don’t have the chance for a lot of face-to-face time with your counselor, make sure to have another teacher, or someone else you trust and has gone through the college search process to help you out.
5. Ask us questions – we take the “Counselor” portion of our “Admission Counselor” roles very seriously. I never want a student who won’t be happy at Babson College to enroll here and want to leave. If you have questions about our school or our application process, I promise I will give you the best advice I can. I don’t work in sales, I don’t get paid a commission; I’ll share the most objective view point possible. There are no stupid questions.
6. Keep working hard in the classroom – too many students apply to too many schools, making the process too competitive to snooze through senior year. Applicants can’t afford to let “senioritis” take over anymore. Take challenging classes and show colleges that you care by keeping the work up!
Overall, the most important thing is to give yourself good options. I had a professor in college who always told us that “If you pay attention to the process, you won’t have to worry about the results.” If you put the effort into a smart, thoughtful college search, in addition to working hard in and out of the classroom, you will place yourself in the best position possible. You will never be able to guarantee what colleges will decide, but at least you will know you have done everything you possibly can…and that really matters.