College application processes

‍College application checklist for rising seniors

Here’s a glance at what the college application plan of your students should look like so that they stay organized, save time and apply to the right-fit colleges.

Devika Bhattacharya
August 1, 2022
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3 min

Students in the final year of school spend substantial time figuring out which college they want to graduate from and how to keep up with the neverending deadlines. They have several forms to fill, tests to take, and essays to write. From understanding their strengths and weaknesses and exploring colleges to getting recommendation letters, there’s a lot to do. Having a detailed checklist at the beginning of the year can be a great asset.

Counselors play a significant role in guiding students during this process. Here is some valuable advice from a seasoned college counselor shared during an interactive session for our recently concluded Student Summer Workshop. This guide, addressed directly to students, is a valuable resource for them. There’s also a College Application Checklist at the bottom that you can download for your students to make their application process seamless. Do share it with your senior year students as a part of your counseling toolkit. 

Start with self-awareness

The summer break can be the most productive time of your high school years if you invest it well. College application planning can feel like a series of endless tasks, but knowing yourself can be a good starting point. It is advisable to make a thorough list of all the activities you have participated in, focusing on your contributions and accomplishments. These activities can be related to academics, volunteering, community service, sports, arts, music, etc. Don’t consider any of them as being insignificant.

The summer break is a suitable time to enhance the list of your achievements. Join school clubs, or get associated with a charity or a neighborhood group. The experience of leading a project or a team will make your resume stand out. Whether you acquire a technical  or soft skill, it will add value to your college application.

You can also try working as an intern with a company related to your field of study. Your parents, alumni, and counselors can help you get an internship opportunity. When you have finished listing your extra-curricular activities, turn to the Resume Builder in the Cialfo platform and create your resume. Your counselor can guide you through this process.

The long and short of college lists

With so many colleges and countries to choose from, creating a shortlist will help you stay focused. Speak to your counselor, parents, alumni, and peer group. Cialfo’s Preference Fit helps you to find colleges that match your locational, academic, financial, and cultural requirements. Make notes of any important information that you come across during the college search process, and also have a list of pros and cons for each college on your list. 

To be more organized, use the Schools section in the Cialfo platform to read about colleges and create your longlist, shortlist, and the applying list. You can move the colleges from one section to  another as you sieve through the information. 

While you are on the platform, you can check out the dates for Cialfo college fairs, as well as virtual sessions that the colleges conduct. Go ahead and register for the events, as attending such sessions indicates that you are genuinely interested in the college. Admission teams value such demonstrated interest when they are shortlisting applications. 

Apart from academics, college ranking, and courses, also take into account the location and culture of the place, as these will also affect your ability to sustain and grow through your college years. Our College Tracker checklist will help you keep all the information in one place. 

Assess the college essay requirements

While you don’t need to get it done in a hurry or perfect it in the first go, start planning for the college essay during your summer break. That will give you considerable leeway to polish the essay before submitting it. 

Find out what the college wants to know from the essay. You may be required to write about your knowledge of the core subjects or be creative and show what makes you unique. 

US universities are looking for something special from you that is not in your resume or application. So, that takes a little more creativity, self-reflection, and personal time.

Michelle Duschang, Director of College Counseling, Hisar School, Turkey

Once you know what is expected, keep taking notes and prepare a framework for the essay that you will work on. Develop the ideas with the help of your counselor and you will be sure to have a smashing college essay. 

Make a plan to ace the college tests

The ACT and SAT are the most common tests that students preparing for higher education in the UK and US take. Follow these steps to maximize your test scores:

  • Find out which tests you need to take for the shortlisted colleges. 
  • Make a planner for the test schedules. There can be multiple opportunities to take the test. Choose the test slot that will allow you to get your scores before the deadline for college application submission.
  • Start with focused preparation. Break your overall plan into chunks of months and weeks. Set a realistic target and reward yourself when you achieve it!
  • Check if there are any preliminary tests to be taken. There may also be language tests that you need to prepare for. 
  • Make Google your ally and find out about mock tests, previous years’ test papers, and what other students have to say about the crucial aspects of the tests. 

A vital step leading up to your college application is the recommendation letter. Identify your recommenders and reach out to them - you can do this from within Cialfo. Some colleges may need additional letters. So, check all requirements and be prepared.

You are all set to start applying now. If you are planning to pitch for scholarships, start early. Many colleges offer partial or full scholarships, and you can also apply for the Cialfo Scholarships that are available for Direct Apply programs. Getting every detail in place and all materials organized in advance will save you time when you meet your counselor to work on your college application plan. Download the checklist prepared by our team to make sure you don't miss any important detail.

We are thankful to Michelle Duschang, Director of College Counseling, Hisar School, Turkey for her tips on planning the college application process.

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