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Welcome to our monthly update on the college search and application process. Each month, we'll be updating this page and including it in our newsletter, so that all of our subscribers can have access to summaries of what they should be thinking about at this point in the college search process.


These updates will mostly focus on the junior and senior classes. Freshmen and sophomores should focus on maintaining good grades, academically pushing themselves, getting involved in extracurriculars, and making sure their summers incorporate meaningful experiences for growth. 

July 2024


Important Tasks

Finalize College List

Complete the Main Common Application Essay/UC PIQs

Create Your Common Application Account

Get Ahead of Supplemental Essay Writing

Register for Fall Standardized Testing

  • Finalize College List:  Now that we are in July, college list development should be in its final stages. All college lists should be balanced with schools that can fit into your likely, target, and reach categories. Parameters for these designations are fairly arbitrary and vary by student profile, but there are some basic parameters that may help you to fill those buckets with appropriate schools. Firstly, any school with an admission rate of 20% or lower is a reach school for every applicant, regardless of how “qualified” a student may appear to be on paper. Other reach schools include those at which your GPA/scores fall in the lower 25% or on the lower end of the middle 50% of admitted students. Target schools tend to be those where your student profile falls comfortably within the middle 50% of admitted students. Likely schools are those that admit 70%+ of applicants and where your profile is in the upper 25% of admitted students. This is a very basic and rudimentary way of thinking about these buckets, and it is not an exact science. Most admission decisions factor in other things, including letters of recommendation, essays, activities lists, and the rigor of course load. If you are wondering how a school might be designated on your list, please don’t hesitate to reach out and we can help you make sure the list is balanced! Remember, just because a school is on your likely or target list does not guarantee admission or merit aid.

  • Complete the Main Common Application Essay/UC PIQs: July is a great time to knock out some college essay writing! Most students wind up applying to at least a handful of schools via the Common Application, and as an organization, they always make sure to release their essay prompts well in advance. The seven essay prompts for this year are available on their website (, and it’s never too early to get started. Prompt number seven advises students to share an essay on any topic of their choice, so most topics are fair game if they help a student highlight their values, personality, character, and/or goals. The main essay should be between 500 and 650 words, and if you need some brainstorming and college essay tips about what admission officers are looking for, check out our blog posts!
    For students who are planning to apply to the University of California system, their “essays'' are 250-350 word Personal Insight Questions (PIQs). UC Apply offers eight prompts, of which students choose four. While the main Common App essay can be creative, the UC PIQs are expected to be more straightforward and respond to the specific prompts directly and in their entirety. The University of California schools are very generous with the information they release about their expectations for PIQs, so please remember to explore and incorporate their guidance.

  • Create Your Common Application Account:  If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to create your account at Remember to use your college-appropriate email we advised you to create earlier this year (and not your school email address, or less professional addresses like The application for the class of 2024 will open on August 1st, but you can enter the basic information now and it will roll over. The Activities List should, in theory, also roll over, but we always advise waiting to paste that in until the new application is available–just in case. Once August 1st hits, you can begin adding the Common App schools to your application and compiling the supplemental essay prompts into an essay tracker to see where there is overlap. For supplemental essays, it’s best to work smarter, not harder, and it’s okay to write essays that can fit multiple prompts.​​

  • Get Ahead of Supplemental Essay Writing: While most supplemental essay prompts won’t be released until August 1st, some schools do release their prompts earlier. When that’s the case, you can typically find them on the college’s website–just be sure to look only at prompts that are clearly marked for this upcoming admissions cycle. There are a handful of common supplemental essay prompts that you can also start working on before August 1st, including being able to write a brief description about your interest in your major, each school, and how you’ll contribute to the campus community. There will likely be other prompts to which you’ll need to respond, but it’s a safe bet that you’ll need at least a handful of those I just listed.

  • Register for Fall Standardized Testing:  Fall exam dates are now open for registration. If you haven’t done so already, don’t delay registering for upcoming ACTs and SATs. In order to have your scores ready by early action deadlines, we strongly recommend completing all testing by the end of September. Early October test results may be available on time, but it may also be cutting it close if schools begin reading applications prior to the early deadlines.


Important Tasks

Make Sure Health Records are Up to Date for Dorm Living

Register for Orientation

Connect with Your Academic Advisor

  • Make Sure Health Records are Up to Date for Dorm Living: Most colleges and dorms will require students to submit health records prior to orientation/dorm move-in. Be sure to note what is required at your chosen university so that you can complete all required forms and documentation in a timely manner prior to moving on campus. This is a requirement for all enrolled students at most schools, even if you don’t plan to live in the dorms. Now is also a good time to check with your school about their insurance requirements—can you waive the school’s offering if you’re covered under your parent’s insurance? Does your current insurance, if you keep it, cover you to see health care professionals near your school? If you know you’ll need specific health care once enrolled, now is a good time to start establishing doctors, because many may require sitting on a waitlist before they can see you as a new patient.

  • Register for Orientation: If you haven’t done so already, start making plans for attending your school’s orientation. Many students roll their eyes at these events, but they are a fabulous opportunity to meet classmates, make new friends, get acclimated to the campus, and have a good and often silly time. Many larger state universities will have multiple orientation weekends during the summer, but most schools will host their orientation during the week prior to the start of classes. If you haven’t received any correspondence from your chosen institution about orientation, please take the initiative and reach out directly to the school to ensure you have the information you need!

  • Connect with Your Academic Advisor: You’re probably used to us saying things like “it depends on the school,” but in most cases, we think it’s important for students to connect with their academic advisor at their college of choice as early as possible. This is the person who can help you plan which courses to take and when, and also help with registration. Some schools will have students complete their class registration during orientation, but most will have students complete it individually over the summer. If you have questions about what classes to take or how to register, your academic advisor will be your primary point of contact. Their information should exist somewhere on your student portal for the school, but you can also reach out to the school directly to inquire about the best point of contact for these questions.​​

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