What Juniors Must Know About College Apps

Juniors. Parents of juniors. It’s time to talk about college applications.

Many of you may feel that applications deadlines are still in the distant future–a thing to be tackled when the insanity of junior year schedules (School tests! Standardized tests! Activities!) finally eases up. The bad news? Your schedules won’t ease up.

From junior year to first semester of senior year, you will only get busier.

This is especially true of students who didn’t plan ahead and find themselves entering senior year having to maintain their GPA in advanced classes, take or re-take standardized tests, and build their resumes–all the while filling out lengthy college applications that often require a handful of essays each.

In fact, let’s take a closer look at those college applications to understand just what seniors are dealing with.

While most students will fill out two main applications (the UC application for all the UCs, the Common Application for most private colleges and universities), the number of required essays will vary depending on a student’s list.

At a bare minimum, students applying to both public and private universities will write the following:

• 4 mid-length responses for the UCs (up from 2)

• 1 long personal statement for the Common App

However, this does not take into account the supplemental (extra) essay questions that a particular institution might include as part of its application process. It’s safe to assume that for most of the colleges and universities you’re interested in, supplements are the norm.

Supplemental essays are often time-consuming and school specific–meaning that answers can’t simply be cut and copied from one application to another.

Some schools make the supplements a serious and significant part of the application. Stanford University, for example, asks no fewer than ten supplemental questions, which vary in length and gravity from a 10 word self-description to a 250 word reflection on a learning experience.

To make matters worse, many colleges have begun to increase the number of supplemental essays they require. The UCs went from 2 to 4. Harvard went from 0 to 1. Loyola Marymount went from 1 to 3. If you consider that most seniors typically apply for 10-12 schools, this small increase can add up to ten or more additional essays bringing the total number of essays a student must write to 25-30 or more!

And those are just the essays. The college application has additional elements that take up time. These include:

• The process of filling out the applications themselves

• Securing letters of recommendation with enough lead-time for the people who will be writing them

• Coordinating the various pieces of information that needs to be sent to colleges (test scores, transcripts, portfolios, etc.)

• Preparing for the interview

Taking all these factors into consideration, FLEX has found that it usually takes a student anywhere from 80-120 hours to prepare a first college application–which is usually an early application. (Of course once that first application has been completed, subsequent applications move more quickly.)

With a little foresight and planning, juniors can prepare for the hugely time-consuming task that lies ahead.

Students who begin application prep early experience tremendous benefits, not only in terms of reduced stress and increased motivation but also in the quality of the application itself.

Without the pressure of an impending deadline, students tend to write more thoughtful and creative application essays. They can invest more time brainstorming for the right content. They can go through multiple drafts, if necessary. FLEX has found a significant decrease in the quality of student essays written once the senior year begins. This is no surprise, given the fact that students are trying to produce these pieces while taking on a challenging senior year course load.

Additionally, there is something about starting the application process that makes the idea of college more real to students. It helps them to start asking the right questions. It allows them to see themselves as viable candidates at a college or university. It gives them a chance to spot weaknesses in their resumes or experiences while there is still time to address them.

To learn more about our college admissions programs including FLEX ACE (Application & College Essay) for 11th graders, visit our Admission Consulting page.

Visit our Events page for a current schedule of events designed to address your questions and concerns about middle and high school education and the college admission process.

To speak with a FLEX consultant about college admissions, please complete this request form.