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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. 

August 2024


Important Tasks

Finalize College List

Complete the Main Common Application Essay/UC PIQs

Create Your Common Application Account

Register for Fall Testing

Begin Supplemental Essay Writing

Letters of Recommendation Update

  • Finalize College List:  Now that we are in August, college list development should be finalized as soon as possible. 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 30% 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, and likely schools are those 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 rigor our 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: If you haven’t already, Common App essays and University of California Personal Insight Questions should be completed. The seven essay prompts for the Common Application main essay are available on their website ( Prompt number seven advises students to share an essay on any topic of your 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:  The Common Application just went through its annual refresh, and starting August 1st, students can complete all portions of the application. 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 Most schools on the Common Application will have their supplemental essay prompts posted. Some schools delay their posting, or delay access to their application via Common App, so if you know a school is on Common App and you can’t find it, don’t stress (University of Washington plans to be available on September 1st, for example). For supplemental essays, it’s best to work smarter, not harder, and it’s okay to write essays that can fit multiple prompts.

  • Register for Fall 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.

  • Begin Supplemental Essay Writing: Despite launching on August 1st, schools have the flexibility to update or change their supplemental prompts until September 1st. That being said, don’t use this piece of knowledge as a reason to procrastinate and delay working on supplemental essays. Students can often find the most up-to-date prompts on a college’s website, via the newly opened Common Application, or by using MaiaLearning/GuidedPath software (this software indicates in the prompt is “current” or “2022”). Every student should expect to write about why they are choosing to apply to a particular school, what major they are interested in pursuing, and how a piece of their culture/identity will impact the campus community. You can review our blogs below to begin a step-by-step process of outlining and brainstorming some of these common topics.

  • Register for Fall Standardized Testing:   If you requested your letters of recommendation in the spring, be sure to follow up with your teachers/recommenders when school starts. Many high schools also require students to complete a form or two to provide more context for recommendation letters from counselors and teachers. Be sure to stay on top of your school’s requirements and remind your teachers and counselors of your application deadlines. Remember, all of your applications should be in at least two weeks prior to the institutional deadline, so you can also let your teachers know that is your plan of action. You do not need to delay submitting your applications until your recommendations are in, though!


Important Tasks

Communicate with Roommates/Dorm Room Shopping

Make Sure Health Records are Up to Date for Dorm Living

Register for Orientation

Connect with Your Academic Advisor

  • Communicate with Roommates/Dorm Room Shopping: Now that it’s August, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to communicate with your future roommate(s) about items you’ll want/need in your dorm. You can use our dorm room checklist as a starting point for what you may or may not need throughout the school year. Many schools also release a checklist of sorts, but be sure to follow the rules of your dorm (most won’t allow blenders, air fryers, toasters, and other appliances, for example.)

  • 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 out of 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 class starting. If you haven’t received any correspondence from your chosen institution about orientation, please take 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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