Today’s talk is all about HOW to apply. (See my deadlines blog for understanding when to apply. https://myuniversitycoach.com/2020/06/understanding-application-deadlines/)
Holistic admissions is a policy incorporated by virtually every college. In summary, it means that admissions officers look at the big picture that each applicant presents. This includes test scores, grades, rigor of curriculum, activities, recommendations. With a holistic process, colleges want to understand the culmination of experiences a student has had and what that student learned from those experiences.
Given this information, it is important to understand that a good application tells a complete story. It likely begins freshman year and builds to an exciting conclusion senior year. It should include character development: triumphs and failures. It can have gravity or a keen sense of humor. At its core, it is a story of growth, personal reflection, and honesty.
Wow, you may be thinking that is a lot!
Where do I start?
Ideally, you start freshman year. Know that the choices you make will have an impact on your story. Are you getting involved? You have many options like clubs, sports, paid work (this can be harder before you are 16), volunteer work, youth groups, band etc. Get out there and add color to your future college applications. Are you pushing yourself academically and learning where your strengths and weaknesses are? Are you staying out of trouble? This is the year to make a habit out of making good choices
During sophomore year, your choices begin to get more sophisticated. Maybe you joined a few clubs last year and now have one or two you want to focus on. Perhaps you grew taller, got stronger, or discovered a new skill to apply to a sport or maybe the opposite – you are coming to the realization that athletics are not your strong suit after all. You are done playing C-squad soccer and want to commit your time elsewhere. This is a good year to explore your options.
Academically, maybe you can now handle some added rigor. You have got this high school thing figured out and you are ready for an honors level or even AP level class. Or not… because that is OK too. Maybe your big realization is that you need extra help and you are handling all that you can right now. Remember – the core of your story is that it is honest to you. What are your best attributes? What are your weaknesses? Where are you able to push and when do you need help? When are you comfortable up front leading the pack and when are you better off taking direction from someone else? These are good questions to ponder early on.
Now comes the fun part – junior year. All sorts of pieces should be falling together for you. More AP / IB classes are available. Sports are getting more competitive – maybe your team has a chance at a championship or perhaps you have a shot at getting named captain. You probably have your driver’s license so getting a job is much easier. Perhaps you have more family responsibilities as a result so that is where your extra time goes. You might be more (or less) involved with religious activities. Maybe you have outgrown being a camper at your favorite summer camp and have been asked to be a counselor in training. Junior year is about becoming more YOU. Your decisions should reflect you: what you think is interesting, how you value your time, what you define as important commitments, where you choose to excel. Every choice you make should be intentional and in keeping with your personal story because right around the corner is…
Senior year, the grand finale. Now you get to tell your story. If junior year finished well, then shout it out in the fall and get your applications in early. If you still need those fall grades to show colleges, then you might want to wait to apply in January. In either case, this is the year to synthesize everything you did in high school and tell your whole story which will then be reviewed holistically. Your transcript, your choice of teacher recommendations, your essay, your activity resume, your test scores – all of these can now come together in a coherent package that is uniquely yours.