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When Should Juniors Start On Their College Applications?

Thu, Feb 04, 2016 @ 02:34 PM

When Juniors Should Start on College AppsThe Common App and Anticipated Coalition App Are Encouraging Students to Start On Their Applications Earlier Than Ever

Recently, the Common Application announced that the prompts for the 2016-17 application season will remain the same as last year, and that, instead of waiting for the Aug. 1 open date, current high school juniors can create accounts now that will roll over into the fall admission cycle. This is a big move, as the Common App stands to have some competition from the Coalition App, which plans to launch its “locker” feature soon and new application this summer. But what does this mean for current juniors, who are already under enough college prep pressure that these colleges supposedly want to help alleviate? How early is too early to get started on your college application essays?

At IvyWise, we believe that getting started early is key to college admissions success, but every student is different and there are limits. In recent years, the Common App and various colleges have announced their essay prompts well ahead of the Aug. 1 open date, giving students the opportunity to think about their essay topics well before the applications are available. This can be helpful for some students to know what to expect heading into senior year, however, this can cause some undue stress – with juniors feeling the pressure to get started on their essays before they have even finalized their college list.

So when’s the right time for juniors to get started on their college applications?

We always encourage students to get started on their college application essays during the summer before senior year. Not only does this help get some work out of the way before students’ demanding senior year schedules take over, it’s also beneficial for students who plan to apply early to have some drafts on hand to get feedback from counselors as soon as the school year starts.

While juniors can go ahead and create accounts just to see the platform and become more familiar with the information the Common App collects, there’s no advantage to filling out the application now as compared to in the fall. Colleges won’t be able to see when an account is created, and how early an application is completed carries no weight in the admissions process.

It’s also important to remember that students who create accounts now and add schools from their balanced college list will be able to see the current application supplements and essay prompts. There’s a good possibility that many of these supplements and essay prompts will change, so we encourage students to make sure these are the prompts the college will use next application season before drafting essays for them.

What should juniors do before starting on their college applications?

There are a number of things that current high school juniors should focus on before turning their attention toward the physical college application and subsequent essays.

  1. Prep for and take the ACT. With the changes coming to the SAT this March, we’re advising current juniors to prep for the ACT. Scores on college entrance exams carry a lot of weight in the selective admissions process, so make sure you’re properly preparing and ready to take the test.
  2. Focus on grades. Grades are the most important factor colleges consider when evaluating applications, so make sure you’re continuing to perform well in the classroom. Don’t neglect schoolwork to get a head start on college application essays. You’ll have plenty of time for that in the summer.
  3. Plan a challenging senior year course load. Course rigor is also an important factor in the college admissions process, so make sure you’re taking a challenging but appropriate course load senior year. Meet with your college counselor to make sure you’ve signed up for the right classes next year.
  4. Work on summer plans. Do you know how you’re spending your summer? Now’s the time to start making summer plans, whether it’s a summer program, internship, or other activity. Colleges want to know how you spend your summers so make sure you’re being productive!
  5. Finalize your balanced college list. One of the most important things you’ll do junior year is research colleges, visit, and build your balanced college list. Take time to properly research colleges and find schools that are the best-fit for your needs, goals, and budget.
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