1. Don’t give away too much information.

People will always judge your college choices and try to poo-poo every school on your list. They’ll say things like “Oh you won’t get in there” or “Good luck with that.” Remember, remarks like this often have to do with the naysayers’ own experiences with a particular school.

2. Don’t base your decision to apply/not apply to and later to attend/not attend a school based on an image or stigma that people attach to the institution

Do a lot of research on different schools and apply to the campuses that most cater to your needs, not your dad’s, not your aunt’s, not your best friend’s.

3. Start your essays early … NOW!

The sooner you can have your essays, yes, all of them (UC, Common Application and Supplemental) done, the sooner you can hand them to your college counselor for review.

4. Don’t just write your average essay.

Colleges are tired of hearing about how much your family means to you and about how many community service hours you have done at a place that you pretend to really care about. Be painfully honest. Be funny. By the end of the day, essay readers are dying for a giggle.

5. Talk to your college counselor ASAP.

And get on his/her good side. This person will do a lot for you, and some things will happen behind the scenes. They will be mailing out your transcripts, they will send out weekly reminders of deadlines, heck, they may even lobby for you to be a scholarship recipient at the end of the year.

6. Ask for letters of recommendation the second/third week of school if you haven’t already done so.

Teachers’ and advisers’ lists will get long, fast. Be proactive and ask for the letter early to ensure that you are at the top of their list.

7. Ask politely for a letter of recommendation and GO IN PERSON to request one.

An e-mail is a bit inconsiderate. Unless the teacher/adviser specifically asks you to e-mail him/her all questions and requests, speaking to your prospective letter-writer in person is the polite norm.

8. Take your last SATs/ACTs early in the fall.

You only have two more sittings to get it right before scores must be sent off. Start preparing in August, your weekends should be consumed with pouring over SAT/ACT books.

9. Get your AP books, tomorrow.

And start going through them from day one of your AP class. Get ahead. Just do it.

10. Buy all your senior-year paraphernalia as soon as it is offered.

Prices for caps and gowns, prom tickets, senior portraits, senior gear, etc. go up if you don’t jump on the chances to purchase early. Wait in the long lines.

11 . Don’t kowtow to senioritis.

You don’t have to be immune to it. You choose to be. And on that same note, if you are admitted anywhere Early Decision, don’t let your guard down. Keep the grades up. A college will revoke your offer of admission if your average plummets.

12. Take advantage of all you can.

This is your last year of high school. Go to all school-related events. Talk to your teachers/advisers, don’t forget they are all college educated and have their fair share of crazy dorm stories to tell you. Explore. If you have never been involved with the theater department and thought you never would be, go to a drama club meeting, volunteer to be on the lighting crew. It’s never too late to call your high school home.



Chelsea Brandwein

Santa Monica

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