All students going to college become college applicants, but not all college applicants have a plan to insure success.
As high school juniors are poised to become rising seniors, some begin to realize that next fall will be the last time they return to their high school at the end of the summer. Only now do ideas begin to form in their mind that a year from now, they will be considered legal adults and will have to do something other than return to high school. Of course, at this point those thoughts will usually disappear with the realization that they have a whole year to get ready. These are the students who think the college application process is only completing the application.
The flip side of the coin is the student who has been preparing for the college application process throughout their high school years. Their grades have always been of high importance, they took opportunities to do volunteering and community service projects, they are involved in extracurricular activities and have made sure that the exams required for college entrance are not a mystery yet to be solved. These students either know what they are looking for in a career or have results from a reliable interest assessment guiding their decisions. They have evaluated a number of colleges and selected a small list of schools to send applications once those applications go live in the summer. The student who has given thought to life after high school has a good idea about what it will cost to attend college and whether their parents will be able to afford that expense. These exceptional students will make good, solid decisions about college that will minimize the stress and drama that, all too often, accompany the college application season.
Over the course of the spring semester during junior year, I begin to see the impact of planning for the college application process versus no planning. The planners usually have applications that are complete and impressive. They have target schools and sound reasons why each school is on their list. The research has been done in advance of adding the college to their short list and prestige is seldom a primary consideration. Those unlucky seniors who seemingly wake up one morning and decide to go to college demonstrate the definition of “chaos”. I encourage every teen to do a little planning and make the college application experience better for everyone.