Hey seniors and parental units,
Here’s another CGR comin’ at you like a Gerrit Cole four-seamer (GO YANKS TONIGHT!) – keep yer eye on the ball and pay close attention cause there’s a lot of stuff in here you can use.
There’ll be a PART TWO coming shortly – exclusively for parents and guardians concerning the October 1 availability of the FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE. Relax and breath – that’s not a deadline, it’s more of an ‘opening day’, but I’ll tell you all you need to know to get those financial aid applications completed and filed over the coming weeks.
STUDENTS: hopefully you’re all ensconced in your home / home-school hybrid / fully embedded at school senior year. I hope that if you’re home you’ve mastered the synchronous and asynchronous, and if you’re in school you’re shucking and jiving in your masks and social distancing, and all’s well with you in this topsy-turvy situation we all find ourselves in.
As I’ve said to many of you over the past several months: no one knows where this is headed, no one knows when it will end, so we’ve all got to make the best of the situation. Keep your grades up, your head down, and know that this will end at some point and a return to “normal” will happen. For now, think about creative ways (i.e., think outside the box!) to show your passion, energy, creativity, and readiness for college to those admissions mavens who will make a cursory appraisal of your college applications this winter before delivering their verdict.
Did I say “cursory”?? Damn straight. Selective colleges won’t know you, and IMHO they’re really going “een-ie mean-ie mine-ey moe” rather than qualitatively assessing your virtue. Unlike the “sorting hat” in that first Harry Potter movie, they just don’t have the time or ability to gauge your readiness and potential.
How could they? They don’t have superpowers like at Hogwarts!
So the takeaway here is to make sure you “show them what you want them to see” – SELL YOURSELVES!!! If you’ve met with my you’ve heard my specific suggestions about extra writing, extra recommendations, a special annotated resume and a “show and tell” piece. If you’ve not yet made my acquaintance, well, what are you waiting for??!!
Here’s some stuff to keep in mind:
Have your colleges selected by November 1.
Apply by December 1, thereby beating most colleges’ deadlines by a full month or more. (Yes, there are some exceptions*, and if you’re applying Early Decision or Early Action you want to move things up a month and have those applications ready to send by November 1.
That’s it. Keep it simple.
* All U. California and California State Public Colleges have November 30 deadlines. U. Washington has a Nov. 15 deadline. U. Florida’s deadline is November 1. And some colleges offer merit scholarships with earlier deadlines, so make sure you read the fine print for each colleges’ “How to Apply Section’
COMPLETE THE COMMON APPLICATION, as well as individual school applications for colleges on your list that don’t accept the Common App**.
Write your essay, and consider writing a second essay to include in the optional “Additional Information” section. Also write the 250 word optional COVID mini-essay – “how have you been impacted by COVID”.
For all your essays, MAKE THEM INTERESTING!!!!!! Reread my “How to Write an Essay
” rant from March – it’s on my web page (or I’ll resend it to you if you ask).
Pay particular attention to the “Activities” section – don’t be bashful about making insightful descriptions in the space allowed.
Make sure to tackle each college’s “Questions” section (as well as “Writing Supplement” if they have one). It’s in your common app dashboard!
**Current popular schools that don’t accept the Common App are Georgetown, MIT, Rutgers, U. Washington, all the CUNY, Cal State and U. California schools, U. Illinois Champagne-Urbana, U. Texas Austin, U. Alabama Tuscaloosa…Again, it’s an easy thing to check.
DO A RESUME! It can be part of each application, plus it’s a handy tool to use when meeting with your school counselor, your teachers and your “other” recommenders, for scholarship applications, and several other purposes which I’ll be happy to fill you in on. I’ll send you a format for an annotated student resume if you’d like to contact me.
Keep researching colleges. There are 2,400 of them out there (including Canadian schools, which remain a good bargain!) Want suggestions for compiling (or focusing) your list of schools? Give me a holler!
TAKE THE ACT and the SAT if you’re able! I understand that this is a widely debated (and misunderstood) topic. Here’s the skinny from the College Guy: While it’s true that most colleges will NOT REQUIRE you to submit standardized test scores because of COVID cancellations, having strong test scores can still help you in terms of where you’ll be accepted, as well as improving your likelihood to receive merit scholarships!
What constitutes a “good” score is relative to each college. For most schools an SAT score over 1000 (a 21/22 for the ACT) is average. For “selective” colleges scores in the 1200’s and 1300’s (and higher) can “make rain” for you. Capische?
Anyone can raise their scores (from what your PSAT predicted) with a little bit of PREPPING – use Kahn Academy
which is free!!
Right now SAT tests are scheduled for October, November and December. If you’re not already registered for an October test it’s too late to do so, but deadlines for the November 7 and December 5 SATs are October 7 and November 5, respectively. Deadlines for the December 12 ACT is November 6th.
Understand that all tests are subject to last-minute closures, so make sure to check at collegeboard.org
ahead of time. And relax about this – the tests may work for you, but they’re not as big a deal as people make them out to be.
Request your letters of recommendation now (if you haven’t already)! Get a few extras – a third teacher and two or three “others” (coaches, employers, advisors, family friends, peers!) Send one or two extra letters with each application (unless the college explicitly says not to – few of them do!) Ask me about the February “Follow Package” (AKA the “Love Letter”) which I recommend you send as well, where you can include an extra letter of rec or two.
Think about submitting some sort of “show and tell” piece to demonstrate an interest, a commitment, a passion, a talent, a creative part of you. It needn’t be academic, or related to your intended major. The idea is to make yourself stand out and be noticed. How can you go about doing that???
Okay that’s a cursory list of the “To Do’s” I’m currently sharing with my clients. If you’d like further information/explanation give me a call or write me an email (see my contact information in signature below).
Have a good October – and vote for Joe Biden or stay home in November!!!
From your didactic don, your opinionated orator, your strategic sachem, your iconoclastic instigator,
Gary the College Guy
P.S. If you have friends and/or relations who may want to read my rants, feel free to forward this to them. I’m beginning to work with class of ’22 students and I have a different set of Rants for them – have them contact me if they want to receive them.
P.S.S. If you’d rather not receive these things, just let me know, and you won’t.