Calling all high school juniors: got college applications on your mind? You'll want to print out this blog post. We rounded up 15 of our best tips for juniors into one master list—which includes links to even more information that you'll find useful in the months ahead. Read on for advice regarding your essay, interviews, visits, financial aid and more.
1. Spend time on your essay. Unless you're submitting a graded paper instead of an original statement, block out enough time to focus on creating a great essay. Be yourself, be honest, answer the question, ask for feedback (that's okay to do!) and keep it clear and concise. Practice makes perfect. (See more essay tips right here.)
2. Choose the right reference. Colleges often specify who they prefer to write your letter of recommendation, so look closely at the requirements. (Siena prefers to receive one from your school counselor.) While you can often send in more than one, think: less is more. Whoever you do ask, give them a refresher on your interests and activities, and dole out a few gentle reminders as the deadline approaches.
3. Assemble an organized resume/activity sheet. When you're listing out your co-curriculuar experiences, remember: quality not quantity. Admissions committees want to see that you were actively involved in something; that's more impressive than spreading yourself too thin with dozens of obligations. (Bonus tip: think outside of school. Were you involved in a community organization or church group? Include it!)
4. Mind the deadline. Keep deadlines top of mind, so you can be sure you complete all questions on your applications to the best of your ability and hit submit before it's due. Need a fresh pair of eyes to make sure you fully completed it? Ask a friend or parent to take a look with enough time to spare.
5. Don't get too hung up on numbers. While your GPA, class rank, academic progress and curriculum do matter to admissions committees (advanced courses look great on applications), other factors certainly help when the numbers don't tell the whole story. Factors like your interview, essay, visit and recommendations can play a big part.
6. Schedule campus visits. There's no better way to determine which school is right for you than by visiting campuses. But what's more: visiting displays interest and helps create your relationship with the admissions office. Visiting also increases the likelihood that you'll graduate from the school you ultimately chose. (Bookmark this post: 5 Things to Look for When Visiting a Campus.)
7. Request an interview if you can. Why? It's the best way for you to show the admissions committee your personality and what’s important beyond GPA and test scores. It's also a good chance to explain any glitches in your application. At Siena, we encourage you to set up a conversation with one of our admissions counselors; here's how.
8. Prepare for your interviews. Before you meet up with an admissions counselor, jot down a list of questions and think about the questions you'll be asked. We're looking to learn more about who you are and what interests you. Bonus tip: one-word answers do not leave a positive impression. (For more interview tips, click here.)
9. Ask for a business card. After your interview, or even if you've just met an admissions counselor at, say, a college fair, ask for a business card. That way, you can follow up with any questions and you'll know where to send a thank you note. (Speaking of college fairs, here's a checklist.)
10. Regarding finances, have a family sit-down. The best financial aid conversations are the ones that happen when everyone involved wants to make it work. Talk to your family about your hopes and dreams for college, and chat about affordability.
11. Look beyond sticker price. What happens when you fall in love with a college that meets all of your needs, but the tuition and fees seem like too much...do you bother to apply? YES! There are a lot of different types of aid, and financial aid counselors are there to help you wade through your options. (Fact: 98% of Siena students receive aid.)
12. Consider value vs. cost. You want to know that no matter what you're paying, you're getting a lot back in terms of opportunities, support and so on. Pay attention to numbers like retention rates and job/graduate school rates. What you want to see: the majority of freshmen return, and seniors land incredible jobs.
13. File your FAFSA, and search for scholarships. This year, you can file your Federal Application for Student Aid as early as October 1. In the meantime, search for scholarships that you may qualify for...like these.
14. Download our Junior Jumpstart Guide. If you liked reading this list and found the advice valuable, you'll want to download this guide, too. It's absolutely free and chock-full of more tips, including how to narrow down your list of schools and five tips to strengthen your application.
15. Attend events designed for you. We actually have one coming up! If you haven't already attended a Junior Day at Siena, register to join us on Thursday, May 5, 12:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. You'll have the oopportunity to tour our campus, meet admissions counselors and attend two of four sessions with more advice on everything you just read about, which you'll no doubt find useful no matter where you apply.
Good luck, juniors! We hope to see you on campus soon.