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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. 

October 2024


Important Tasks

Apply for Financial Aid

California State University & University of California Applications

Finalize Common Application & Supplemental Essays

Make Sure Letters of Recommendation are Being Prepared

Confirm Receipt of Required Documents

  • Apply for Financial Aid:  Typically, October 1st marks the release of the new FAFSA and CSS Profile applications each year. However, this year, the CSS Profile opened a couple weeks early and the FAFSA is delayed until at least December (but likely January). We strongly encourage all families to apply for financial aid, especially considering some colleges require these forms to disperse merit scholarship funds. Instead of reinventing the wheel and writing our own version of these important documents, we are directing you to some of the most helpful links and best financial aid resources available:

  • California State University & University of California Applications:  Financial aid forms aren’t the only things that typically open on October 1st! The California State University (CSU) application also opens 10/1, and both the University of California (UC) and CSU applications can now be submitted. For students who work with Virtual College Counselors, we will continue to review and provide feedback for your Personal Insight Question responses until they are marked “complete” by us. For those who don’t work with us independently, here are some helpful resources/tips to navigate the UC Application/Personal Insight Questions and the CSU Application.

  • Finalize Common App & Supplemental Essays:  With early decision and early action deadlines around the corner (some as early as October 15th, but most on November 1st or 15th), students should be making their final edits to their personal statement and supplemental essays. If not yet in the final stages, students should at least plan to have a solid draft of each essay before 10/8, in order to have time for revisions prior to submitting applications. No applications should be submitted until all essays and the application has been reviewed by at least one second set of eyes (typically a parent/guardian for students not working directly with Virtual College Counselors).

  • Make Sure Letters of Recommendation are Being Prepared:  Now that college application deadlines are approaching, it’s time to confirm deadlines for submission with your recommenders. Remember, 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. 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! Learn more about requesting letters of recommendation and our suggestions on who to ask for recommendations on our blog.

  • Confirm Receipt of Required Documents:  As mentioned above, early decision and early action applications are due within the next few weeks. We advise students to submit their applications at least two weeks prior to the institutional deadline, in order to ensure all required documents have been received (school report, counselor recommendation, teacher recommendations, test scores when applicable, portfolios when applicable). Once an application is submitted, the institution will send the student an email with information about how to set up or login to their prospective student portal (usually within 3-5 days of submitting the application). It’s very important that students look out for these emails. They may wind up in the spam box, and if the information isn’t received within five days, students should take initiative and email admissions to inquire about access to the portal to confirm the receipt of all documentation.


Important Tasks

Connect with Teachers

Explore Learning Styles & Hone Study Skills

Begin Recording Activity Participation

Start Thinking About College Fit

  • Connect with Teachers: Most colleges require letters of recommendation from junior year teachers, and most often from core classes. Now is the time to connect with your teachers and make sure they get to know you inside and outside of the classroom. They will be writing about how you interact in the classroom, how you engage with your peers, how you contribute to the class they teach, and the overall student community, etc. Give them positive reasons to remember your name: ask meaningful questions, accept constructive feedback to improve your skills in the class, and make sure to seek out help if you are struggling with the content of the course.​​

  • Explore Learning Styles & Hone Study Skills: Understanding how you learn best will come into play when you begin exploring college options and building your college list. Do you find that you do better in classes where there are more opportunities for hands-on learning (like projects, labs, etc.), or do you find that you retain more information when teachers lecture and you take notes? This is also a great time to really hone your study skills. How much effort do you need to put in outside of the class to do well on exams?

  • Begin Recording Activity Participation: In the spring, we are going to recommend that students begin drafting a resume of the activities in which they’ve participated in during high school. This resume will ultimately become your activities list, but by the time the spring rolls around, many students forget activities in which they’ve engaged. Future you will thank current you for creating a spreadsheet with each activity, and recording the number of hours and frequency of engagement. Activities can include anything from sports (JV/Varsity and Club), music, school clubs, honor society participation, volunteer/service work, paid work, internships, family responsibilities, hobbies, and anything in between. Truthfully, an activity is whatever you spend your time doing when you’re not eating, sleeping, and going to school.

  • Start Thinking About College Fit: As you navigate through tougher courses during junior year, start thinking about what you might want to look for in a college. Are there certain states you are not interested in exploring for college? Are there states you do want to explore for college? Will you have financial support as you navigate the college application and educational journey? Do you prefer mountains or beaches? College town, rural setting, urban setting? How far is too far from an airport? Do you learn better in larger classes or smaller ones? Are you more engaged in the classroom when the teacher knows you? Do you prefer lecture or discussion to learn new material? Anything that comes to mind is worth writing down as you navigate this college search journey. The notes you take now will help inform your college list later!

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