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Applying to colleges in the US: milestones to consider for the month of August | ParentEdge


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Planning your Milestones for Application Season

Seniors’ Checklist to Planning the Next Several Months

Welcome To The Future Green Road Sign with Copy Room Over The Dramatic Clouds and Sky.I have found that at this point when families are heading into the thick of the application season, it is helpful to remember how quickly the time will go, how the work load of school combined with applications and your other interests can become overwhelming if you don’t plan ahead. This month’s blog will be focused on letting you know where you should be at this stage and if you are on target. The challenge is that the “actual” deadlines are still far away, but the amount of work that is required does not allow for you to complete everything at the last minute. The work on the essays requires “re-writing” and careful editing. To do this, one must also allow time for an essay to “simmer” a bit without actually looking at it. This allows you to come back with fresh eyes. So here is a good indication of where you should be at this point.

1. College List:

All of you should have narrowed down your list of colleges to apply to. There was a two part series Blog on ParentEdge related to Choosing Your Colleges here: http://parentedge.in/finding-best-fit-colleges-part-1-your-preferences/ Research of college specifics will really help you in writing any “Why Us” essays for your colleges, a common question in many colleges in the US. Through this process you should have narrowed down your short list to about 10-12 Final schools.

“The Prepared Senior” at this stage has a Final List and has specific points that indicate why these are great fit schools. You will have also created an account on Common Application or any other “Own” applications and copy/pasted all of your essay prompts (and the word/character limits) on to one document so you have all of your work in one place. Many of you have sent me your first two “Why Us” essays.

All of you should finalize on the Final List by end of August at the latest.

2. Preparing to Write about Yourself:

Before you get into the parts of the application that asks you to talk more about yourself, it is good to get comfortable talking about these activities.

“The Prepared Senior” is practicing articulating their main differentiating points in a variety of ways: talking about their activities, thinking of key stories that highlight their characteristics, etc.

3. Common Application Personal Essay:

The personal essay for the Common Application (or other “Own” applications) is a slightly challenging beast to slay. You cannot really attack it head on, that is, writing answers to the prompts directly I find do just that ~ answer the prompt. But that is very similar to school-based writing, and tends to be a bit drab and boring. What we are looking to do with the Personal Essay is to tell an interesting story about you. Then make sure that it has some “Substance” about you. It is harder to start with substance and try to make it interesting. Better to start with an interesting story.


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Prab Singh heads CollegeSource (http://thecollegesource.net/), an organisation that provides life coaching to adolescents and support to their family through the process of deciding their higher education and career goals.

One thought on “Planning your Milestones for Application Season

  1. Sudha Kumar

    To corroborate what Prab says, getting an early start and sticking to a plan really help. This is especially important if you are targeting many colleges and those that have essays beyond the Common App. Also, the essay writing is the most ‘hyped’ part of the app and most kids sweat a lot over it. So spacing it out, having time for reviews and rewrites and if need be even changing the topic is a must.

    Also, making sure that all aspects of the app are addressed equally well is important- for example, ensure that you identify the right teachers for the reco and that the student has updated the teacher on all his/her activities. In international schools, teachers do a lot of recos and we must try and make sure your child’s reco does not get lifted off a template but is instead more tailored.

    Last, the activity list ( i think you can fill in up to 10 such) is also a great place to tell a story- rather than make it like a laundry list, think through how you can tell the college who you are.

    Unlike students in the US, most students from India will not have an opportunity to do a personal interview and/or visit a college and make an impression. So, paying attention to the details of the application can go a long way in enhancing your chances of admission.


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