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.
11th Grade is essentially the culmination of the high school experiences that will be included in college applications. At this point in junior year, the classes students are currently enrolled in will provide the last grades that most colleges will see during the application process. Additionally, most students don't pick up new meaningful activities during this last semester of junior year, but it's important to think ahead to how you may engage and grow over the summer before senior year.
Continue College Research
Complete Activities List Draft
Finalize Senior Year Classes
Upcoming Testing (AP/IB/SAT/ACT)
Schedule Your April Meeting
Continue Researching Colleges: The College List is the list of schools to which a student plans to apply. We anticipate students having a fairly finalized college list by June, when we begin the essay writing process, so there is no need to rush. As a reminder, there are over 4,000 colleges in the USA alone, and most students will apply to somewhere between 8 and 12 of them. Students who work with Virtual College Counselors are expected to build a balanced college list, including likely, target, and reach schools. Regardless of which category each school falls into, every school on a student's list should be one they would be excited to attend. Lastly, much like College Fit, it is normal and healthy for the College List to develop and change overtime (just like a student).
Complete Activities List Draft: Students who we work with are dedicating the month of April to completing the draft of their activities list. Almost every college application will require some form of an extracurricular resume, although each application's version might have slightly different formatting. Students working directly with us can find a helpful infographic and worksheet inside their Google Drive folder. Students and families can also find two blogs on our website that will help complete the activities list (one written by us and one written by our previous student intern).
Finalize Senior Year Classes: If you haven’t already done so, it’s important to finalize your senior year classes before the end of April. In general, colleges want to see four years of math and English, three+ years of history and science, and 2+ years of a foreign language. If you’re interested in any of the public universities in California, you’ll also need to be sure that you have a full year of a visual or performing arts course to be eligible to apply. Students interested in highly selective institutions should also be taking as many rigorous courses as they can do well in, and that often means students should be getting through Calculus and Physics in high school.
Upcoming Testing (AP/IB/SAT/ACT): April is a great time to start studying for AP and IB testing. Students should also continue preparing for the SAT or ACT. Remember to sign up for exams early and keep your eye out for emails about materials needed to complete the registration process! We recommend all juniors take the SAT or ACT at least once, in order to keep doors open! MIT has already declared they will be requiring test scores again moving forward, and we imagine other schools will follow suit. That being said, there were hundreds of test-optional schools prior to the pandemic, and you can find the most updated list at fairtest.org. And a reminder that the University of California and California State University systems are test-blind, meaning they will not be using SAT/ACT scores in the admissions process. They will, however, be using AP and IB scores as an added benefit if you have passing scores. You can register for the ACT HERE and the SAT HERE. If you are interested in utilizing our self-paced test-prep software, please reach out to discuss how to add the service to your current package.
Summer Planning: While we firmly believe that students need a brain break over the summer, we also know that the time can be spent in productive and engaging ways. It’s important to do something–anything–over the summer, beyond binge watching tv shows and movies and hanging out with friends. Some things to consider include: pre-college programming on a college campus, learning a new skill (like a coding language, for example), developing and engaging in a passion project, working a part-time or full-time job, conducting research in a lab at a local university, volunteer work, traveling, etc. What colleges hope to see is meaningful engagement, so do something you love!
Schedule Your April Meeting: Juniors should also schedule their monthly meeting for April. Our March meeting is typically 30 minutes and can be scheduled HERE.
Seniors! You're finally in the home stretch! While many of you have chosen to remain on waitlists, April is the time to make a college decision. Regardless of waitlist status, students who plan to attend college in the fall need to enroll at one of their current college options (or request the deferral for a gap year–reach out to us about this process!) before May 1st. The sooner students enroll, the sooner they can complete housing documentation and begin connecting with other students in the class of 2026.
Finalize Financial Aid
Managing Waitlist Decisions
Make a Decision
Submit Official Test Scores
Thank Your Recommenders
Finalize Financial Aid: Prior to enrolling in your chosen school, make sure you understand your financial responsibilities. If you have questions about something that is offered in your financial aid letter, be sure to reach out to the office of financial aid to get your questions answered. It’s particularly important for students to be aware of any requirements that need to be met in order to keep merit scholarships!
Please remember to send us PDFs or screen shots of your college admissions notifications and financial aid award letters as you receive them. Students are encouraged to put these digital documents into their Virtual College Counselors Work Folder in Google Drive. When we meet later this semester, we will utilize this information to help you make informed college decisions, and also help to negotiate for more aid when needed.
On our website, students and families can find several blogs dealing with financial aid topics such as how to understand the wording of their financial aid award and how to appeal your financial aid award for additional money. We also strongly encourage students and families to take advantage of the free services offer at TuitionFit, which can show you how much money other students with similar academic profiles are receiving.
Managing Waitlist Decisions: If you’ve been waitlisted at one or more schools that are still of interest to you, be sure to follow each school’s instructions for staying on the waitlist. Some schools may go to the waitlist as early as this month, and some may wait until after the fall term starts. We have a bunch of advice and information about waitlists in this blog post, but to reiterate the important pieces: students should determine if they want to stay on the waitlist, and they should also determine an internal deadline of when they’d need to hear back from the school to make the switch.
Make a Decision: April is finally here, and that means that college decisions should have been delivered! Seniors need to make an official college decision by May 1st, and notify all of their other schools that they are declining those offers of admission. Also, please update your GuidedPath accounts with admission decisions (include merit offers). Here is a brief video to show you how to update the decisions. Please feel free to schedule a meeting with us to discuss your options!
Housing/Enrollment Deposits: Once you’ve determined where you plan to enroll next year, you should also complete the housing deposit and all required forms. These forms are typically found on the student portal or on the Office of Residence Life on each school’s website. The sooner you submit the housing forms, the more likely it is that you’ll get the housing you want! You can also start completing the forms to meet potential new roommates.
Submit Official Test Scores: If you applied to schools using test scores, many colleges require an official score report once you enroll. Double check with your school if this is a requirement, and then order the official score report from ACT.org or The College Board (for the SAT).
Thank Your Recommenders: If you haven’t done so already, share all of your acceptances with your recommenders. They spent their weekends and after school hours writing these letters for you, and they will be thrilled about the options you have on the table! Be sure to thank them. We are always partial to a thoughtful handwritten thank you note, and maybe a small gift card or box of chocolates as a token of your appreciation.