August is considered the "kick-off" month for applying to colleges because the Common Application is released on the first of the month. Senior year is a busy time, and it is extremely important that you stay organized so you can successfully navigate the college admissions process. This means it is time to get all your ducks in a row and develop a solid plan for applying to colleges.
Gather Supplemental Materials
Start by collecting your writing samples, portfolios, and any necessary audition tapes. In order to apply to specific majors, some schools require you to submit additional materials before they decide whether or not to accept you into a specific program. If you don't have these materials prepared, it is a good idea to gather them and/or create what you need so you are prepared when it comes time to apply (and before you have the added stress of senior year coursework). Thankfully, the Common App partnered up with SlideRoom to allow students to easily submit portfolios directly through the application. If you have any questions about portfolios or writing samples, seek out your high school counselor - chances are they will have helpful tips for compiling all of your hard work.
Ask for Letters of Recommendation
If you haven't already, think about who you might ask for a letter of recommendation. Some colleges require that they get at least two recommendations, one from a teacher and one from a guidance counselor, so be sure to pay close attention to what the colleges you are interested in require!
Start College Applications
It's time to register on commonapp.org if you haven't already done so. All you need to register is some basic profile information - like your name, date of birth, address, email, and phone number. Having this account will give you access to apply to about 700 colleges! If you are not sure which type of application you need to apply to the colleges of your choice, then refer back to the schools' admission website pages.
Along with your applications, you'll need to include at least one personal essay. Essay topics can be found on the Common App and individual college applications. Some schools require two separate essays, one from the Common App and one of their own. Start brainstorming ideas on what to write about - no idea is a silly one. Colleges want to see your personality, so write in a way that will let it shine! It is a great idea to have a few different versions to choose from when it comes time to submit your essays.
The best advice we can offer you is to stay organized! Use Excel or your mobile calendar to keep track of your applications and deadlines. By keeping your information in one place, you'll be sure to meet all deadlines and know what materials are still outstanding. If you are feeling overwhelmed and need some guidance navigating the college application process, make an appointment with our College Planning Center.