Juniors: Now is the Time to Start the Application Phase

Juniors – it is time to shift gears!  You have just reached a critical inflection point in the college admissions process and you must shift from the “credential building phase” to the “application phase.”  The application phase begins now and ends when you have your application is complete to every college on your list – which generally means, it lasts for the next calendar year.  Shift now and you preserve your sanity – delay and it could be a straightjacket for you (or those who love you or both).

What do you need to do to shift gears? 

Make time. 

How much time is this going to take?  A lot.  I use this formula for a student who aspires to attend a selective college:

SAT or ACT Prep/Test:  48 hours (2 sittings and 40 hours prep)

SAT Subject Tests:  22 hours (2 tests and 10 hours prep for each)

College List:  50 hours (research, visits)

Applications:  120 hours (12 apps, 24 different essays)

TOTAL:  240 hours

Put another way, you should assume that you will need to set aside about 5 hours per week for “college stuff.”  Of course, you will have weeks when you do lots more than that and weeks when you do almost nothing, but the important thing is that you realize this process takes time and you have to make time for it.

Be the boss and assemble your team. 

Good news for those of you who have been waiting for the moment when you become the boss of your own life.  That moment has arrived.  You must be the boss in this phase.  But that doesn’t mean it is a solo enterprise – far from it.  You have to be the boss of a team and coordinate other people’s actions as well as your own.  It is a big responsibility, but you can do it if you step up and be the boss.  Start by putting together your team and assigning roles and responsibilities.

Who makes up a good team for a student who wants the “best possible” help and support through this process? 

  • Parent/Guardian/Trustworthy Adult Who Knows You:  You need at least one adult who you trust to be your chief supporter, cheerleader, and advisor during the process.  This person’s expertise about the process is not particularly important; his/her ability to listen, advise and support is critical.
  • High School Counselor:  You must have a point person “on the inside” who will write the counselor’s recommendation, provide information about your high school to colleges, and coordinate the submission of all school forms (transcripts, etc.) on your behalf.  Note for international students, homeschooled students, or anyone who attends a high school that doesn’t have a designated counselor:  you will have to identify the appropriate person “on the inside” to handle these matters – often it is a principal or school head – look on the Common Application site to get an idea of the forms this person must complete and then see who might be right in your circumstance.
  • Independent Counselor:  You can navigate the process more easily if you have an expert who works with you one-on-one throughout the entire process.  This is what an independent counselor does.  At a minimum, an independent counselor should know, really know, colleges in the U.S. and have a deep understanding of the college admissions process for the kinds of colleges on your list.  You should look for an independent counselor who has the expertise you need (check credentials and professional affiliations) and who has the right personality for you. 

That’s your basic team and these three will be with you through it all. 

Comments or Questions?

Shifting gears and have tips to share?  Post them.  Not sure how to shift gears in your particular situation?  Post your question and we’ll answer it. 

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting.  She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (most recently at Dartmouth College).  She works with students and families throughout the U.S. and abroad.  Follow Alison on Twitter (@IveyCollege)