Updated: Aug 25
EDIT: Since the publication of this post, our self-paced course for college applications support is now enrolling its summer cohort. If you want to get an early (on time) start on your applications, click here to learn more and start your journey to higher education.
Imagine the scenario: Lily, a high school senior, anxiously sits in front of her laptop, racing against the clock to complete her college applications. She recalls her classmates who started the process early, diligently researching colleges, perfecting their essays, and confidently submitting their applications well ahead of deadlines. As the minutes tick away, Lily can't shake off the nagging feeling that her rushed applications might not reflect her true potential. The weight of uncertainty hangs over her as she wonders if she missed out on valuable opportunities by not starting her college applications early.
The college admissions process is a crucial milestone in your educational journey, and the stakes have never been higher. The competition is fierce, with a surge in the number of applicants vying for limited spots at esteemed institutions. In this landscape, a well-planned and early start to college applications can make a significant difference.
We at Sol Success understand the importance of early preparation and the impact it can have on your admissions experience. In our previous article on summer test prep, we discussed how summer tutoring can help you enhance your standardized test scores. Today, we delve into another critical aspect of the admissions process: starting college applications early. By doing so, we aim to guide students like you and Lily and empower them to take control of their admissions journey from the outset.
So, if you want to avoid the last-minute rush, the sleepless nights, and the anxiety that can accompany late applications, join us as we uncover the benefits of starting your college applications early. Let's embark on a journey that will not only set you up for success but also instill confidence and peace of mind throughout your college admissions journey.
The Benefits of Starting Early (Now)
(Note: When we refer to starting your college applications “early,” we mean being on time and giving yourself ample time to complete the process. The journey of preparing for college applications can be extensive and may require several months of dedicated effort.)
At Sol Success, our primary concern is your success and well-being throughout the college admissions process. We understand the challenges and pressures you face, which is why we want to emphasize the importance of starting your college applications early. By doing so, you not only avoid the stress and anxiety that comes with last-minute submissions but also open up a world of benefits that can significantly impact your admissions journey.
Time for Self-Reflection and Exploration
Starting your college applications early allows you to engage in a crucial phase of self-reflection. Envision Lily, the student we introduced earlier. With an early start, Lily would have had the opportunity to thoroughly assess her interests, goals, and aspirations. She could have researched different colleges, explored various majors, and considered the best fit for her academic and personal growth.
By giving yourself ample time, you can embark on a journey of self-discovery. Reflect on your passions, strengths, and values. Consider the academic programs, extracurricular activities, and campus culture that align with your aspirations. Starting early grants you the luxury of a thoughtful and well-informed decision-making process, ensuring that the colleges you apply to genuinely resonate with who you are and what you hope to achieve.
Strategic College List Development
Crafting a balanced college list is vital to ensure that you have options that align with your preferences and goals. Starting your applications early allows you to strategically develop your list. Consider Lily, who rushed the exploration process and wasn’t 100% sure that the colleges on her list matched her academic interests and personal aspirations. Maybe she had time to research admission requirements, but wasn’t able to squeeze in a campus visit. If she had started on time, she would have been able to curate a list that encompassed her dream school, target schools, and a few safety options.
When you start early, you can thoroughly evaluate colleges based on factors such as academic rigor, campus culture, location, financial aid, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. This strategic approach ensures that you have a well-rounded list that maximizes your chances of finding the right college fit.
Reduced Stress and Enhanced Quality
One of the most significant benefits of starting your college applications early is the reduction in stress and anxiety. Picture Lily, who waited, and then simply charged ahead after the start of the autumn semester. In between AP classes, clubs and sports, she could not fully dedicate herself to completing her applications. All this weighed on her mind throughout the semester, and the final product suffered.
By giving yourself ample time, you can work at a comfortable pace, allowing for introspection and attention to every aspect of your application. This results in well-crafted essays that showcase your unique qualities, achievements, and experiences. Starting early empowers you to produce high-quality applications that truly reflect your abilities and potential.
Access to Resources and Guidance
When you start your applications early, you gain an advantage in accessing resources and guidance. Colleges often organize information sessions, virtual tours, and webinars for prospective students. These events offer valuable insights directly from admissions representatives. You can also connect with current students, faculty, and alumni to gain a deeper understanding of these institutions.
Additionally, beginning your applications early allows you to seek guidance from counselors, teachers, and mentors. They can provide invaluable support throughout the process, helping you identify your strengths, refine your essays, and ensure that your application presents a comprehensive and compelling narrative.
At Sol Success, our ultimate goal is to see you thrive and succeed in your college admissions journey. Starting early is a powerful step towards achieving that goal. With ample time, you can engage in self-reflection, strategically build your college list, reduce stress, and access the resources and guidance necessary for a successful application.
So, you’re a rising senior in high school, embarking on the exciting journey of college applications. As you navigate through this process, let's take a moment to tally up the workload you'll encounter along the way. Brace yourself, for there is much to be done.
Researching Colleges and Scheduling Campus Visits
First, you embark on the task of researching colleges. You explore the CSU system, the UC system, a few out-of-state public schools, and several private schools. You carefully examine their programs, admission requirements, campus culture, and financial aid opportunities. This research alone takes hours of your time, as you strive to make informed decisions about the institutions that align with your goals and aspirations. But since you started early, you can spread the research out over several weeks.
Additionally, you schedule a few campus visits to get a firsthand experience of the colleges that pique your interest. You aim to explore their campuses, interact with current students, attend information sessions, and get a sense of the overall environment. Each campus visit requires planning and coordination, further adding to your workload. Good thing you’re starting early! Especially if you’re looking at out-of-state schools, you’re going to have to likely coordinate logistics with your family. Many schools conduct virtual tours, but if you’re looking for something less curated, you’ll want to visit in-person.
Many students start this process, on a limited basis, very early in their high school career. Perhaps they zero in on their dream school at first. But you should probably start looking at the wider landscape of schools by the end of your first semester of junior year.
Gathering Materials and Support
Next, you face the task of gathering your high school transcripts and requesting recommendations from teachers and mentors. You need to reach out to your school administration and provide them with the necessary information to obtain your official transcripts. Simultaneously, you approach teachers who know you well and ask them to write recommendation letters on your behalf.
This process involves thoughtful communication, ensuring that your requests are clear and timely. Your teachers may have many students under their purview, and therefore might be inundated with requests if you wait. By being one of the first to ask, it’s much more likely they’ll say yes. You coordinate with your recommenders, providing them with the necessary information, such as your achievements, aspirations, and the colleges you plan to apply to. Remember, their recommendations can play a significant role in shaping your application, so it's essential to approach this step with care and gratitude. No seriously. Take the time to thank them properly. They’re going above and beyond for you, likely on their own time.
You’ll likely have a lot less contact with your teachers over the summer break, so you’ll want to begin this process sometime in the spring semester of your junior year.
Writing Your Essays
Application essays are an opportunity to showcase your unique voice, experiences, and aspirations. Brace yourself, as you'll be facing quite a few of them. For the UC system alone, you'll be crafting four essays, each with a 350-word limit. These essays require introspection, thoughtful writing, and revision to ensure that you convey your perspectives effectively.
But the essays don't end there. For the out-of-state public schools, you'll probably be utilizing the Common Application, which includes its own personal statement essay. On top of that, you'll likely have to tackle two to three supplemental essays for these schools. Similarly, for the private schools you're interested in, there will be an additional set of two to three supplemental essays to write.
So if you’re counting along, that’s upwards of nine to eleven essays, not even counting any short answer questions or schools which use a system apart from the Common Application. Then there’s the editing process, coordinating timelines, and any further writing required for scholarship applications. Depending on your writing process, that can be many hours of your time.
Since you likely don’t have many writing assignments over the summer break, that’s probably the best time to begin your essays. Most, if not all of the prompts will already be available, and you’ll maximize your chances of submitting to schools with early action, early decision, or priority admission options.
Congratulations on exploring the benefits of starting your college applications early (on time). By embracing an early start, you alleviate stress, gain valuable time for research and reflection, and craft compelling essays that reflect your unique story.
Don’t be like Lily: Take action now. Embrace the early start, create a roadmap, and consider seeking the expertise of a professional counselor. If you already feel behind, there’s no time like the present to begin! Sol Success Education offers tailored counseling services. Visit our booking page to explore options and find a counselor who can guide you through this transformative journey.
Your college application journey is about self-discovery, growth, and embracing opportunities. Start early, believe in your abilities, and unlock the doors to your dream college. Seize the opportunity, create a future that aligns with your passions and ambitions.