As a student, you're at the center of a group that includes teachers, family, coaches, and counselors. The great thing about this network is that it provides you with a number of "champions" who can help you in your college planning efforts. These are also the people who will be able to help you when it's time to seek those letters of recommendation the admissions office requires.
Your champions can help you through the college planning maze
Let's imagine that you're thinking about college admissions and you don't know where to begin. Stacks of college brochures are piled in the corner, and new ones arrive every week. You know you want to go to college, but who can help you make sense of it all? Your champions!
The insight of a champion can help define your path. But who, exactly, is a champion? A champion is a teacher, coach, counselor, or community leader who can lend you guidance as you make important decisions about the future.
Talk to teachers and counselors now and share your thoughts and dreams. They'll be able to help you:
- Explore your educational options and develop a college plan
- Consider the best ways to use your talents
- Identify the schools that will fit you best
The best time to do this college prep is, of course, well before senior year. In other words, don't procrastinate when it comes time to get into college!
To get into college, you have to take the initiative
One thing to keep in mind is that guidance counselors are busy people. Really busy! For that reason, it's on you to take the first step in getting to know them. Set up a meeting as early in your high school career as possible. By establishing a good relationship, it will make things that much better for you as your college plan gets up to speed.
That said, even if you're a senior, it's not too late to seek help and guidance from those who understand the process of college admissions. Whether it's a favorite teacher, coach, or counselor, seek insight from those who know you well and can help you weigh your options.
Letters of recommendation are part of college admissions
If you've built solid relationships with champions who know you well, it will pay off when it's time to seek letters of recommendation. It's much easier for a letter writer to paint a vivid picture of your potential when they know your strengths and talents well. Here are a few recommendations for you:
The last thing you want to do is rush the person who's doing you this favor. Believe it or not, the spring of junior year is not too soon to get the ball rolling when it comes to asking people to write college recommendations.
Set up a meeting
You might not know exactly what to say. Do it anyway! If your champion understands your aspirations, their letter will be that much more effective. A good letter provides specific insight that really highlights your individual potential.
Do some writing yourself
Write down your goals and share them with your letter writer. This doesn't have to be an epic masterpiece, but it has to say more than "I want to go to college." Identifying your goals and sharing them with an adult will be instructive for both you and your champ.
An important thing to keep in mind during the college admissions season is that certain people will be writing a lot of letters, especially popular teachers and coaches. Provide everything they'll need, including time, to get yours in by the deadline.
Independent counselors can help you with college prep
Private counselors and educational consultants can also be a great resource in your college planning. Many have worked on the "other side"—college admission offices—and know what it takes to successfully plan your search and, eventually, get into college.