Advice for Seniors in an Unusual College Admissions Season

mom and daughter looking over book outside

This is a tricky time for everyone. But it’s especially strange for high school seniors — they’re preparing for the college admissions process without knowing if they will be able to visit — or even take classes — in person.

In an episode of Getting In: A College Coach Conversation, Bright Horizons College Coach® experts covered how to help your high schooler create a checklist to prepare for fall of their senior year. Here’s what it should include:

  • Create a Master Spreadsheet: Even though your student might have more free time than they’re used to this fall, deadlines can still sneak up — and it’s easy to miss something with so many moving parts. Make a plan — chart out college names, requirements, and ways to show engagement, as well as deadlines for essays, testing, and final application submission all in one place.
  • Start the Applications: The Common App, the University of California application, and others went live online on August 1. This is a great place to start! Encourage your student to dive in and start with the main pieces — name, address, interests, and more — just to get a feel for what these applications look like and entail.
  • Draft the Essays: Start with the Common App personal statement or another application’s main/broad essay. This will be all about your student and their personal experiences, and can be adjusted for multiple applications. Stick to a schedule and factor in time for feedback — even the best writers need a few drafts!

  • Strategize Supplemental Essays: Scope out the variety of applications with your student, and see if there’s any overlap in supplemental essay topics. Choosing topics that your student can tweak to use more than once will save time and extra writing.

  • Research & Prepare for the Interview Process: Your student might have to dig a bit to find interview information on college websites. This year, they might take place on Zoom or another virtual platform. But regardless of where your student interviews, make sure they have a concise elevator pitch on why they want to attend the school and that they come prepared with questions.
  • Figure Out Testing Policies: Are any schools on your student’s list test optional? If not, which tests will they need to take — and when? Help your student find the mid-50% score ranges from past accepted students and compare them to their scores to make an informed application decision.

Challenges brought on by COVID-19 are creating a college admissions process unlike any other. What was already an overwhelming time for students and families has become even more stressful, but planning ahead and following these steps can help.

Check out our full podcast here — you’ll also get tips on how to get organized to apply for financial aid and how to help your student prepare for the college process.