Throughout high school, you’ve probably been doing college research by visiting campuses, talking with your counselor, and surfing university websites. If you’re a rising senior, it’s now time to start preparing your list of favorites, collecting deadlines, and thinking about your essays.
Make your list. You should be starting to home in on your list of favorite colleges—places you truly can see yourself for four years. Focus on schools that match your goals as a student both inside and outside the classroom. Consider geographical location, size, environment, and curriculum.
Each of your schools will fit into one of three categories: Reach, target, or safety. Just as it sounds, target schools should dominate your list—but don’t go overboard! Applying to schools costs time and money, and too many applications will complicate the process and, potentially, make your final decision harder. Also, make sure to discuss your choices with your high school counselor to make sure you have a good balance between reach, target, and safety schools.
Check it twice—and make a calendar of deadlines! By the end of the summer, your list should be almost complete. Get a leg up on the application process by creating a calendar with all the deadlines for your applications. Keep in mind that financial aid applications are separate, so make sure you add those deadlines as well.
It’s also helpful to keep a running list of every school’s application requirements. Interested in Hopkins? Check out our requirements here.
Consider applying Early Decision. Certain schools, such as Hopkins, offer a binding early decision application that notifies students of acceptance before other Regular Decision deadlines. This is a great option for students who can identify a clear top choice, as it reinforces their interest and commitment to the admissions committee and allows them to focus on just one application.
Brainstorm topics for your Common Application essay. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are Common App essays. Start small this summer by brainstorming topics for your essay. Think about a topic that will convey something that is important to you or will demonstrate why you’d be an asset to a college or university. If you’re stuck, start with the things you like to do—for instance, playing basketball. Ask yourself: “Why do I like to play basketball? What does basketball mean to me?” If you need some inspiration, check out the popular Hopkins resource, Essays That Worked, written by admitted students and chosen by the admissions staff to represent the best essays for that application cycle.
It’s also important to remember that some schools, such as Hopkins, require supplemental essays. These essays should receive just as much of your attention, if not even more—but, worry not, because the earlier you finish your list and your common app essay, the better your supplement will be!