which schools are the best match. “Kids will
want to consider geographic location, class size,
professor availability and whether they want
a public or private school,” says Sara Fargo, a
Kentfield-based private college counselor. “The
fall of junior year should be focused on reading
about colleges and possibly visiting a few that
are closer by.” An easy, no-travel way a child can
learn more about schools: talk to the college
admissions officers who visit the high school
If test prep courses or a private tutor will
be needed, start early in junior year so a child
can get as much help as needed. Usually 10 to 12
sessions are recommended.
Have your child take the PSAT in October,
and then either the SAT or ACT in the spring
(many students take only one, depending on
which better fits their skills). Teens applying to a highly competitive college will also
need to take the SAT II subject tests, offered
in May or June.
Once you’ve narrowed your list of schools,
schedule a college tour for midwinter or
spring break. Register online for campus
tours (they can fill up at busy times), and
when you arrive, attend both the informational session and the tour. “I like to
make sure students go on their visits with
knowledge, interest and a list of personal
questions,” Fargo says. Be warned, though:
Any question that you, the parent, ask during
the tour will be deemed the world’s stupidest
question by your eye-rolling child.
a financial aid
Yes, it’s that
If possible, kids should start working on their
application essays the summer before senior
year. Essay prompts can be found on the
Common Application ( commonapp.org), which
many colleges use. A number of colleges ask for
additional essays, so be sure to check out each
school’s requirements. If your kid is organized
and motivated, you’re blessed; if not, stay on her
so there’s enough time for rewrites too.
Students will also need teacher recommendations and should start asking for these “at the
very, very, very beginning of senior year,” Favaro
says. Popular teachers often get booked up fast
and sometimes have to turn down requests.
To keep everything straight, Favaro rec-
ommends creating an Excel spreadsheet that
includes due dates (in order), essay prompts
and word counts for each college. If you’re
applying early decision (which is binding
and means your child will definitely attend if
accepted) or early action (nonbinding), appli-
cations are due between November 1 and 15.
The regular deadline for the UCs and CSUs
is November 30. For most other schools, the
drop-dead date for applications falls between
January 1 and February 1.