If you’re the parent of a rising senior who is just finishing up their junior year, odds are that you’re starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by all of the deadlines, to-dos, and applications that will surely be coming your kid’s way. Stress is undoubtedly transferable, and any stress that you or your kid might be feeling will inevitably make its way to your family and your home. We want to help prevent that as much as we possibly can by helping you stay organized.
Dear High School Senior,
CONGRATULATIONS! You recently got into college or will get into college soon, and that is totally awesome. You are probably feeling elated, but it’s also ok to be scared of what’s to come and confused about what to do next. All of high school can feel like a build-up to this moment, and now it’s here, and you still have to go to class. Weird, right?
I recently shared a 17-floor vertical journey in my apartment building’s elevator with the mom of a high school junior. I’m well-known in my building as “the woman who gets kids into college,” so I wasn’t surprised when she asked if I could answer a question for her. “Sure,” I said.
We know. Just seeing this headline makes you want to slam your computer shut and call in sick from school. Take a deep breath. We’re not saying you’re going to get rejected or even deferred. While, every year, kids do get rejected from the ED schools, most of our students get in where they want to go. However, we always recommend a contingency plan because the only thing worse than not getting in is not getting in and having no backup plan. Let’s call this insurance.
Fall is the time in which the stress of the college application process typically starts to set in: The classic “I showed up to the first day of senior year without any of my stuff” nightmare, difficulty paying attention in class knowing an incomplete Common App still sits on your desk, dreading running into your parents’ friends, for fear they might ask you where you’re applying. We’ve been there. Stress can be pretty brutal. It can get in the way of your productivity during the application process, but a healthy dose of it can also be motivating. So, we’ve decided to highlight a few tips on how you can use a little bit of stress to your advantage without totally panicking.
There are so many components to the application process, it can be hard to determine exactly the right recipe for success. Campus interviews are certainly the most interactive piece of the application puzzle, but are they right for everyone?
For the last 18 or-so years, you have done it all. You were there for their first steps, their training wheels, even their car wheels, and now, you want to see them all the way through before they fly the nest. What is the best way for you to manage this next step in the process?
DON’T GET INVOLVED. Hire someone.
For many a college-aspirer, the application process can seem like an impassable mountain of paperwork. In the face of juggling both college essays and schoolwork the urge to hide under the covers can be real. Sorry, but that digital stack of to-dos isn’t going anywhere. Fear not, though, applicants, there is an end in sight and just on the other side of it is a beautiful college welcome week waiting to greet you.
If you’re a parent of a rising senior you might feel like the walls are closing in on you and your child. There is no right way to feel at this time, but feelings of helplessness and stress are pretty common as you enter college application season. That’s why many parents decide to get help in addition to what some schools may offer, in the form of a college advisor. We understand that not everyone has access to this kind of help, so we are making some of our wisdom and knowledge available to you here. We may not be parents ourselves, but since all of us at The Koppelman Group have gone through the college admissions process ourselves within the last ten years, we are closer to the process, which gives us added perspective. We have also been helping kids get into college for years now, so we have a better sense of what parents are going through as well. We remember what our junior year in high school was like, with all the stress and pressure, not just from our parents, but from our peers as well. It was awful, and this is why we can empathize so well with our student clients, and help them avoid the pitfalls that we experienced.
Senior year is an incredibly busy time, and there are a lot of considerations to take into account. Namely, classes. Students choose their classes for senior year during junior year and a question we get most often is: “How many AP classes should I take my senior year?” Here we offer one guiding statement about the AP class debacle:
Over the past month our seniors have been receiving their acceptance letters and we’re so excited to share that this year’s class was our most exceptional to date. If we learned one thing during this admission cycle, it’s that the creative and quirky essays work. Our students wrote incredibly dynamic stories that made admission committees laugh and cry. They wrote supplements in Haikus and rhymes, and relentlessly pushed the limits of what they thought was possible. And it paid off. 95%, and this is not an exaggeration, of our students got into one of their top two schools. Now, our students find themselves in the most ideal predicament: they have to choose which schools to attend. We’re so proud of our students and we can’t wait to see where they decide to go.
Every year we work with students who come to us immediately after they’ve been deferred early decision and assume that it is effectively a rejection. This is a myth that needs to be debunked. A deferral is only a rejection if you treat it that way.
It excites our students to find out that a school they’re applying to doesn’t have a supplement. Although supplements serve a very important purpose, they can be tedious to write because of the time and research involved in making them unique. We went through the top 100+ schools on the US News and World ranking and found all the schools that don’t have supplements. If you’re on the fence about applying to a certain school on this list, then this might be the factor that makes you apply. However, we don’t recommend applying to a school simply because it is supplement-free.
We recommend taking the SAT/ACT early so that you feel less stress during the college application process. If you find yourself needing to take a last minute exam, it can be hard to figure out which test dates will still be accepted by specific universities for regular decision.
Most people don’t remember when they learned about Harvard for the first time. Harvard looks and feels like “college.” With its red brick buildings and green quad, Harvard the movie magic, picture perfect image of a college. No matter who you are or what your various connections to the school may be, Harvard is a reach for almost everyone. A reach school is a school where a student falls towards the lower end of the indicated range, or any school that admits less than 20% of applicants who apply. Reach schools are incredibly well known and sought after—think Ivy League+ schools. In order to get in, you need something special. We can’t give you an exact formula for getting into Harvard, but we have developed unique strategies for helping students get to their reach schools.
As we’ve said, colleges aren’t just admitting your grades and test scores. They really want to know who you are and why you would be a good fit at their school. By your senior year, there isn’t much you can do to change the nature of your application. Unless you are retaking your tests, your grades and scores are basically set. There are only a few aspects of your application that you get to start from scratch at this point: your essays, your supplements, and your recommendation letters. Your teachers work with you everyday and can speak to qualities you possess that aren’t mentioned elsewhere in your application. The quality of your recommendation letter is extremely important, but we’ve found a lot of our students feel awkward when it comes time to ask their teachers. Here’s a guide to help you figure out how and when you ask your teachers for letters.
The Recommendation Letters are a hugely important and often overlooked portion the college application. Your grades and scores don’t tell the whole story. Unlike the essays, recommendation letters give someone else the chance to advocate on your behalf. You have the chance to have a teacher you admire tell a school what makes you stand out from other candidates. Of course, who you ask to write your recommendation is extremely important because it will affect how the admissions committee sees you.
We hope you get into your dream reach school, and we plan on giving you all the advice to make your dream come true. But the reality is that you need to have a solid backup plan just incase. In the beginning of the college application process, most of our students have the wrong attitude towards safety schools because they assume they will get into at least a few of their target and reach schools. Safety schools are never to be looked down upon. We find that students who do that end up picking their safeties at random. A safety should be a school a little below your target range that you still would love to attend. Although we’ve never had a student who hasn’t gotten into at least one of their reach schools, we want to ensure you’re prepared for that possibility.
You can write your college essay about anything, which is part of the reason it is hard to find a subject. Having no predetermined topic will undoubtedly feel overwhelming, especially since most high school students aren’t used to writing that way. You’re stuck looking for an answer to the question “what colleges are looking for?” The answer is, frustratingly, nothing. They’re looking for well-crafted, thoughtful essays that tell them something about you they can’t glean from your app.
Summer before senior year:
- Brainstorm ideas for common app essay
- Create a preliminary list of about 20-25 safety, target, and reach schools