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Fast-Track to the Future

posted Oct 16, 2013, 8:38 AM by Diana Inbody
Madi Endicott

    Thirteen years ago the class of 2014 started their first day of Kindergarten. Big-eyed and toothless, they began the long and winding road to the unknown future.

    Now entering their final year of high school, the future for these seniors is a little more clear (and urgent). For most it is college. With applications, letters of recommendation, college visits, and ACTs, seniors can be overwhelmed by all of the things that need to be done in order to secure their spot on the fast-moving train to the future.

    Here are some tips to help seniors through the college application and decision process.

    The deadline for most college applications (in order to receive merit scholarships from the school) is Dec. 1, though some schools like Ohio State encourage students to have their application in by Nov. 1.

    Seniors must be aware of the October test date for the ACT. This is essentially the last time for seniors to take the ACT before college applications are due. The registration as of right now is closed, though a student may be able to pay a late fee in order to take it.

    ACT scores and grade point averages are probably the most common things that come to mind when it comes to college applications. These two areas are essential to any application, though they do not solely determine acceptance. Most colleges look for well-rounded and involved individuals, according to Mr. Zender, guidance counselor. “[Colleges] want good kids who are good students,” Zender stated.

    A college can clearly see if a student is well-rounded through different aspects of the application. Two main areas they look at are the letter of recommendation and the essay.

    Letters of recommendation are a way for students to help promote themselves to a college through a teacher. “I think that letters of recommendation are extremely important. I think that's the deciding factor in a lot of cases if you are a borderline student,” Zender said. He also encouraged seniors to “try to have a math or science teacher or more academic teacher [write a recommendation for them], because [colleges] look at those a little more positively than maybe a coach.” It is better to have a teacher who knows the student well and will write a good recommendation. Also, it is good to notify the teacher at least two weeks before the application is due so that they are not overwhelmed and have plenty of time to write it.

    “Typically the more selective colleges want to see what you're writing,” Zender said about college application essays. Essays should be taken seriously as they are a way for students to express themselves and “tell their story.

    “Everybody looks good on paper, but you have to tell [the college] what makes you different,” Zender said in regards to essays. Including a personal writing in the application ensures that a college can get to know the student and this is a huge factor in determining acceptance. In fact, essays are so important that he highly suggested including one even if it is not a requirement. Students should also consider having an English teacher or parent look over their essay before submitting it

    College visits are one of the first steps in the college decision process. Most seniors have probably been on more than one already and can understand the importance (and excitement) of getting to know the campus of a favored college. They are a way for high school students to get a feel for campus and enforce that a certain college is right for them. Zender suggested college visits to schools that a student is already applying for in order to know whether or not they feel comfortable there.

    “You need to go to a college where realistically you can be successful at,” Zender said when asked about what schools to apply to.

    Some people have that dream college that they have always wanted to attend, but having a back-up, or multiple back-ups is a smart plan. Zender said that some students apply to as many as 4-6 colleges.

    “The future” is a more complicated concept than what those Kindergarteners may have imagined it to be thirteen years ago, but every step in the college application and decision process, no matter how stressful or rushed it may be, makes the future that much better and brighter.

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