COLLEGE ADMISSIONS FROM THE INSIDE OUT

52 Weeks to College: Week 1

It’s time to kick things up a notch when preparing for college...

Anna Ivey

January 3, 2023

52 Weeks to College: Week 1

It’s time to kick things up a notch when preparing for college...
January 3, 2023
Permalink


Welcome to the “52 Weeks to College” Series

Welcome to the last half of your junior year!

It’s time to kick it up a notch when it comes to all things college related.

We know, we know. You probably already feel stressed and overwhelmed, so how do you kick it up a notch and not lose your mind?

It’s all about pacing and breaking things down into smaller chunks, and that’s what our 52 Weeks to College series will help you do.

From now through the end of the calendar year, we’ll be posting every week with specific to-dos to get done that week and all kinds of pro tips and tricks to help you knock out that list in the most efficient and effective way.

The important thing is to stay on track with your weekly to-dos, and that way, when the time comes, you’ll be submitting your best college applications with a minimum of drama or last-minute cramming.

Most weeks you’ll be able to polish off the items on your list with 1-2 hours focused on college stuff and a little bit of extra effort directed at things you are already doing. We promise this is doable.

If you are working with your school counselor or an independent counselor or a mentor, you can always adapt this schedule as needed.

See you next week, when the work begins!  💪

P.S. This series is mainly aimed at students applying to so-called “selective” colleges in the United States. In this context, “selective” means that their admissions rates are less than 50% (meaning, fewer than 50% of applicants get in), and those colleges practice a “holistic” admissions process. “Holistic” in this context means that admissions officers will look at an applicant as a whole person, and not just your grades or test scores. Those numbers will still matter, but they will be placed into the context of the rest of your life — your background, your achievements outside of the classroom, your opportunities, your challenges. And you’ll also be submitting other application components like essays, recommendations, and activities lists. Learn more about holistic admissions in this short video.


P.S. Want this 52 Weeks to College series to land in your inbox every week? Sign up for our 52 Weeks newsletter here.


Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

52 Weeks to College: Week 52

You're Done – Celebrate!

Anna Ivey

January 2, 2023

52 Weeks to College: Week 52

You're Done – Celebrate!
January 2, 2023
Permalink


It’s Week 52 and you are DONE! You have prepared and submitted your applications to every college on your list. You may or may not have gotten into one or two. Most of you are left with nothing to do but wait to hear from the colleges – and that is likely months away. So now what?


WEEK 52 TO-DOS



THIS WEEK

  • Celebrate!

  • Wrap up doing anything you need to do in response to the colleges you’ve heard from.

  • Finish submitting your applications if there are any lingering. If the deadline is in February, get those applications in by January 15 at the latest.

  • Finish your financial aid forms if there are any lingering.

  • Respond to any invitations for interviews and interview.


THIS WEEK AND EVERY WEEK

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.

  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

TIPS AND TRICKS



Celebrate. We doubt you need a huge amount of help figuring out how to celebrate, but you may not be sure exactly what you are celebrating, especially if you haven’t gotten into any of the colleges where you’ve applied. So let us tell you!

  • You are celebrating that you have crossed a major milestone on this seemingly endless journey to college.

  • You are celebrating all the accomplishments that you highlighted in your applications — every grade, every activity, every idea presented in your application represents an accomplishment. There are lots of them!

  • You are celebrating all the life skills you’ve learned in the last 52 weeks, including how to manage a major project, how to roll with the punches presented by a global pandemic, and how to present yourself in your best light.

This is all huge. HUGE. Celebrate it!



Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

52 Weeks to College: Week 51

Deferrals

Anna Ivey

December 30, 2022

52 Weeks to College: Week 51

Deferrals
December 30, 2022
Permalink


Last week, we covered what to do if your applications were accepted or denied. There’s a third category that is a bit of a limbo state: deferrals. This week, we’ll cover your next steps if your application shave been deferred.


WEEK 51 TO-DOS



THIS WEEK

  • Do what you need to do in response to the decisions you receive from the colleges about your early applications.

  • As soon as you’ve heard from your early schools, you will know which, if any, regular applications to submit. Do it now! (Aren’t you glad you had them ready to go?)

  • Continue doing what it takes to finish the term with great grades.

  • Get all your financial aid forms as close to finished as possible.


THIS WEEK AND EVERY WEEK

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.

  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

TIPS AND TRICKS



1. Treat your deferral as a second chance. Being deferred is a bit disappointing, but you haven’t been denied. Instead, you have a second chance to be admitted! Your deferred application will be reconsidered in the regular round of decision making. Assuming you have continued on a positive course in the first part of your senior year, you have new information that can and will make the application you've already submitted even better.

2. Update your application in one go. Rather than sending things in dribs and drabs, assemble all your updates into one package of materials and submit them all together with a short and polite cover letter. That way, all the updates together will make a cohesive and persuasive statement about you. (Sending updates individually also makes it more likely that something will be misfiled or lost.) If that college remains your first choice, make sure to reiterate that in your cover letter.

3. Use good judgment about what to send in your update. Here are the five kinds of updates that can help your deferred application (listed in order from most influential to least influential):

  • New (and good) grades

  • New (and higher) test scores (if you took tests at all, and your test scores stack up favorably, send them even if you didn’t send test scores initially; the schools can decide what they want to do with them)

  • New academic honors or awards

  • Anything you have done that demonstrates interest in that college (unless a college expressly tells you they don’t care about demonstrated interest)

  • A positive word from someone who has a deep and influential connection to the university (major donor, board member, alum, tenured faculty, high-level staff); most people won’t have these, so don’t sweat it if you don’t either

You can, of course, also submit other kinds of updates, like additional essays, recommendations, or supplementary materials. But we're not as enthusiastic about encouraging you to submit those, because those kinds of updates get mixed reviews from admissions officers. They tend to be more of the same, and they usually serve only to make your file fatter and more time-consuming for an already harried admissions officer to get through.



Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

52 Weeks to College: Week 50

Accepted, Denied – What to Do Now

Anna Ivey

December 23, 2022

52 Weeks to College: Week 50

Accepted, Denied – What to Do Now
December 23, 2022
Permalink

If you submitted early college applications, some decisions are rolling in now (some won’t come until later). You’re no doubt doing a happy dance if you were accepted, scratching your head if you were deferred, and nursing your wounds if you were denied. Regardless of your situation, we’ve got tips about what you need to do now. We’ll cover acceptances and denials this week, and deferrals next week. Remember – it isn’t truly over until you’ve arrived at college next fall!


WEEK 50 TO-DOS



THIS WEEK

  • Do what you need to do in response to the decisions you receive from the colleges about your early applications.
  • As soon as you’ve heard from your early schools, you will know which, if any, regular applications to submit. Do it now! (Aren’t you glad you had them ready to go?)
  • Check in with your school counselor and your teachers to get anything you need from them before the holiday. Get tips about this in last week’s post.
  • Continue doing what it takes to finish the term with great grades.
  • Get all your financial aid forms as close to finished as possible. Delay any that aren’t due before your holiday break so you can stay focused on schoolwork.


THIS WEEK AND EVERY WEEK

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

TIPS AND TRICKS



IF YOU WERE ACCEPTED:

1. Share the happy news with your high school counselor and your recommenders and thank them.


2. If you applied EARLY DECISION, and you have received your financial aid package, and you have read all the fine print, and you can afford to attend, then you are bound to accept the college’s offer and you should do the following:

  • Make your enrollment deposit by the stated deadline (usually by January 1).
  • Withdraw your other pending applications and decline any other offers of admission. All you have to do is send a two line email to the admissions office at the other colleges: Please withdraw my application from consideration. I was admitted to [name of college] through Early admission and I will be enrolling there. Sign it with your full name, your birth date, and the name of your high school to make sure they withdraw the right application and mark the right offer of admission as “declined.” You must withdraw directly with each individual college. It is not enough to notify your school-based counselor or update your account in Naviance (or whatever internal platform your high school uses).
  • Follow through with financial aid deadlines and documentation.
  • Don’t lose steam. You have to graduate, you have to keep up your grades, you still have to stay out of trouble….

3. If you applied EARLY DECISION, and you have NOT have received your financial aid package at the same time, sit tight because you do not have to withdraw your other applications until you have received your financial aid package. When you do receive your financial aid package, read it carefully, including the fine print. If you cannot afford to attend, nobody can force you to attend, and you are also free to submit new applications in that scenario. You must let your ED school know if you cannot afford to attend. Do not abuse this process.

4. If you applied EARLY ACTION, then you have some decisions of your own to make because you are not bound to accept the college’s offer.

  • Decide whether to accept the offer now, or whether to wait and apply elsewhere and decide after you’ve heard from your other colleges.
  • If you decide to accept the offer, follow the checklist above for Early Decision.
  • If you decide not to accept, then submit your remaining applications and wait.


IF YOU WERE DENIED:


  1. Wallow in your misery for a short time and then move on. No question that being denied by a college where you applied feels bad. So let yourself feel bad for a little bit. Allow yourself a couple of days to rant, rave, cry, or be grumpy. You just don’t want to get stuck here.
  2. Then regroup quickly. Remember life isn’t over and you can go on to a perfectly wonderful future. So dust yourself off and get back in the game. You still have the option of applying to other colleges for their Regular Decision or Rolling deadlines. Sometimes we take a shot and we miss. We all do at one point or another. Don't quit now... tap into your inner resilience and keep going.
  3. Do some analysis of what went wrong this time. Then set about doing it differently. Was that school a long shot because of your credentials? Do you have newer, better credentials that you can showcase for your next batch of schools? Could you have done a better job telling your story? Do you have a more realistic list of schools to pursue for the next batch? Did you lose steam when you got to the application forms themselves? What can you do better or differently or more realistically going forward? Do you need to take a gap year to fix bigger problems? Consider both your short-term and long-term options. Read this excellent post by Jon Boeckenstedt to find out why that might be.

Next week we’ll cover some tips for applications that have been DEFERRED.

Enjoy the holidays, you deserve a break!





52 Weeks to College: Week 49

A Few Final Things to Do Before You Break for the Holiday

Anna Ivey

December 16, 2022

52 Weeks to College: Week 49

A Few Final Things to Do Before You Break for the Holiday
December 16, 2022
Permalink

Most of you are getting close the time you will break for a winter holiday. And when you have a holiday, so do your school counselor and your teachers. There are a few things you’ll want to do before everyone has some much-needed rest and relaxation.

And, of course, I haven’t forgotten that it’s right around the time to hear from the colleges where you applied early. Next week’s post will be all about how to handle the news – whatever it is. For this week, stick to the plan to get the things done that you need to do before the holiday. You’ll thank me next week, when you can be singularly focused on the big news. Promise.



WEEK 49 TO-DOS


THIS WEEK

  • Check in with your school counselor and your teachers to get anything you need from them before the holiday.
  • Continue doing what it takes to finish the term with great grades. Get some study tips in last week’s post.
  • Get all your financial aid forms as close to finished as possible. Delay any that aren’t due before your holiday break so that you can stay focused on schoolwork.



THIS WEEK AND EVERY WEEK

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

TIPS AND TRICKS



1. Update your school counselor and recommenders about where you are in the college application process and thank them for their help so far.

Your school counselor and your recommenders WANT to know what’s happening. So give them a brief update along with a thank you before you go on break. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just an email along with these lines will do the trick:

Hi Mr. Delaney:

I just wanted to let you know how things are going with college applications. I’m waiting to hear back from three colleges where I submitted early. Depending on what I hear from them, I plan to submit one to three more applications by the end of the year.

Thank you so much for all you’ve done to help me. I
really appreciate it. I’ll keep you updated about decisions as they come in.

Have a wonderful holiday!
~Stephanie Student



2. At the same time you send your update, confirm that your school reports, counselor recommendations, and teacher recommendations will be submitted before the holiday IF you are submitting applications with deadlines that come during the holiday.

Many of you will be submitting applications with due dates during the holiday (think of all the January 1-15 schools!). That means you’ll have school reports, counselor recommendations, and teacher recommendations due then too. So it is vital that you line them up before the holiday comes. Do it at LEAST A WEEK BEFORE THE HOLIDAY STARTS.

Confirm that these have already been sent or are in line to be sent in, whatever way makes the most sense. You’ll know the system at your school by now. But do yourself a favor and double-check everything. If you submitted the form to request one of those items, check back with your school counselor or recommender and make sure they got it. Same if you sent an email request or made a request online through Naviance or something similar.

You can also just add a sentence or two to the email you’re already sending with the update to confirm. For example, Stephanie Student could modify her email this way:


Hi Mr. Delaney:

I just wanted to let you know how things are going with college applications. I’m waiting to hear back from three colleges where I submitted early.

Depending on what I hear from them, I plan to submit applications to the following colleges before January 1st: College 1, College 2, College 3. I have already requested that you send your recommendation to those colleges, but could you please confirm that you will do that before the holiday? I want to make sure they receive it by the deadline.

Thank you so much for all you’ve done to help me. I
really appreciate it. I’ll keep you updated about decisions as they come in as well as let you know if my application plans change.

Have a wonderful holiday!

~Stephanie Student


Stephanie should get a reply from Mr. Delaney confirming that he has sent the recommendation to Colleges 1, 2, and 3 AT LEAST TWO DAYS before the holiday break. If she doesn’t, she should follow up with Mr. Delaney and make sure he’s going to get it done. You can and should be diligent without being a pest. Just be polite, but firm, that you need to get his confirmation that the recommendation has been sent.



Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

52 Weeks to College: Week 48

When Will I Hear Something From Colleges?

Anna Ivey

December 9, 2022

52 Weeks to College: Week 48

When Will I Hear Something From Colleges?
December 9, 2022
Permalink

We know it’s frustrating while you’re waiting for your admissions decisions. This week, we’ll talk about when you can expect to hear and also help you refocus your energy on things within your control – like your schoolwork!


WEEK 48 TO-DOS

THIS WEEK

  • Do a quick check of when you are supposed to hear from your early colleges.
  • Return your focus on your schoolwork so you can finish the term with great grades. Check out last week’s post for a refresh.
  • Get all your financial aid forms as close to finished as possible. Delay any that aren’t due before your holiday break so you can stay focused on schoolwork.
  • Respond to any invitations for interviews and interview. See Week 45 for tips.


THIS WEEK AND EVERY WEEK

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

TIPS AND TRICKS

1. Finding out when and how you will be notified of a college’s admissions decision is usually a quick and easy research task.

Start by READING the emails that the college has sent you and CHECKING your admissions portal on the college’s website. Very often, the college either tells you or posts their notification dates. Some even give you real time updates. If there’s no joy there, then try this simple Google search: “early notification date admission [name of college here]” Scan the results looking for the most current information and give preference to information that is posted by the college itself because that is the most reliable. If you can’t find anything from the college, then and only then should you scour the discussion boards. Fair warning: the discussion boards are usually full of anxious applicants like you who mostly know nothing for sure. So take anything you find there with a BIG grain of salt.

2. You’ll probably know before the FAT ENVELOPE comes.

The majority of colleges will either notify you by email or post your admissions decision on your applicant portal on the day that the envelopes go out via snail mail. There are, however, a few colleges that still notify ONLY by snail mail and for those, the Fat Envelope is what you want to see! Since you should be getting your decision online, there are a couple of things to do to get prepared:

  • Make sure that email from the college is not going to your SPAM folders. If you find anything from the college there, then be sure to look there on a regular basis, especially on the days around the time you expect to be notified.
  • If the college has given you a link and log in information for an applicant portal or website where you can find out the college’s admissions decision, test it before the big day. Your meltdown when you encounter technical difficulties on decision day will be EPIC. Guaranteed. So test your log in now and avoid that drama. Don’t log in every five minutes, though. Colleges can see your log in history if they want to, so keep that in mind.

3. When the FAT ENVELOPE arrives, take the time to read everything inside it. There will be important information about deposit deadlines, housing, and financial aid. You don’t want to miss any of this critical information. Unfortunately, there are some colleges out there that will assume you’re not enrolling and give your spot away if you fail to turn in the housing form, for example. (This has actually happened.)

Now back to studying – remember to finish strong!!!


Get more essay help right within your copy of Inline.

Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

52 Weeks to College: Week 47

Back to Your Senior Year in Progress

Anna Ivey

December 2, 2022

52 Weeks to College: Week 47

Back to Your Senior Year in Progress
December 2, 2022
Permalink

Hopefully you got your applications done and dusted over the Thanksgiving holiday and even managed to catch up on your sleep, because now it’s time to refocus on your schoolwork.

Why?

Because, the end of the term is coming and your grades this term matter! In fact, now that standardized testing is optional at virtually every college, your grades matter more than ever. So add some focused studying to your to-do list this week as you work on wrapping up the tasks related to applying. We’ve given you our best tips for effective studying, so you can make the time you spend really count!


WEEK 47 TO-DOS

THIS WEEK

  • Refocus yourself on your schoolwork so you can finish the term with great grades.
  • Check in on all of the applications you’ve submitted and make sure they are complete. Chase down any missing pieces and resolve any problems promptly and politely. See tips on how to resolve problems in last week’s post.
  • Continue working on your financial aid forms. You have probably completed the FAFSA and CSS/PROFILE forms by now. So what’s left are the college-specific financial aid applications and local scholarship applications. Aim to submit these forms within a week of submitting your application to the college.
  • Respond to any invitations for interviews and interview. See Week 45 for tips.


THIS WEEK AND EVERY WEEK

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

TIPS AND TRICKS

1. Take practice tests for the material you are studying.

Ideally, you use a practice test that is as similar as possible to the real test. So if you will have a multiple choice test in Ms. Adams’s US History class, then ideally you would study using a multiple choice test previously given in Ms. Adams’s US History class. BUT, and this is a big BUT, you will still get benefit from practice testing even if the practice test is not in the same format as the real test, as long as it addresses the same subject matter. To find practice tests, first ask your teacher about releasing old tests for you to use as study tools. If that’s a no-go, then search practice tests online – just Google “practice tests” and the name of your textbook. Finally if there is nothing online, then treat the questions at the end of your textbook chapter as a test, using homemade or purchased flashcards to test yourself.

2. After doing a practice test, restudy as needed.

Restudying involves going back to the questions that you got wrong and studying the correct answer and where/why you went astray. If you can’t understand the correct answer, then ask someone to explain it to you (your teacher, a friend in the class, a tutor). Once you have read and understand the correct answer, you have “restudied” the material.

3. Plan on “distributed” studying rather than “massed” studying (aka cramming).

Distributed studying is a fancy way of saying that you break your studying into shorter sessions over time, rather than cramming in one big session.  The science says that you should have a gap of time between study sessions equal to 10-20% of the total study time if you want to retain what you are learning. Assuming you are going to have finals before you leave for the winter holiday, you need to retain what you are studying anywhere for 14 to 21 days, so the easy way to do it would be to add a practice test or restudy session every other day for each class. Divide and conquer! If you have six classes with finals, do three classes on one day and the other three classes on the next day and continue alternating until finals.


Get more essay help right within your copy of Inline.

Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

52 Weeks to College: Week 46

You Submitted Your Applications, Now What?

Anna Ivey

November 25, 2022

52 Weeks to College: Week 46

You Submitted Your Applications, Now What?
November 25, 2022
Permalink

You are entering the final stretch, and it’s easy to think that once you’ve submitted your application to a college, you’re done and all you have to do is wait.

But there is one more final step you’ve got to take before you go into waiting mode. You have to make sure your application is complete – meaning the college has EVERYTHING they require to evaluate your application.

This week, that’s your focus and we’ll give you some tips for how to do it and what to do if you have any problems. Plus we’ll throw in some tips for scholarships, since once you’re admitted, you’ve got to figure out how to pay for it.


WEEK 46 TO-DOS

THIS WEEK

  • Check in on all of the applications you’ve submitted and make sure they are complete. Chase down any missing pieces and resolve any problems promptly.
  • Continue finalizing your applications one-by-one. If you’ve been following the 52 Weeks series, your essays are finished and it is now just a matter of finalizing things for each of your remaining colleges. For tips on finalizing, see Week 42.
  • Submit any applications that are due by November 30. For more tips, see Week 43.
  • If you submit any applications this week, alert your recommenders and school counselor so they’ll send the necessary supporting materials and order test score reports if needed.
  • Continue working on your financial aid forms. You have probably completed the FAFSA and CSS/PROFILE forms by now. So what’s left are the college-specific financial aid applications and local scholarship applications. Aim to submit these forms within a week of submitting your application to the college.
  • Respond to any invitations for interviews and interview. See Week 45 for tips.


THIS WEEK AND EVERY WEEK

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. See Week 19’s post for tips on how to handle being contacted by colleges.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

TIPS AND TRICKS

1. Confirm that the applications you have submitted are complete by checking with the college. Most have some sort of applicant portal where you can confirm, but some give other directions or follow up with email confirmations. Whatever the method is for the particular college, use it. The only way to know that your application is complete FOR SURE is for you to have confirmation from the college. Just because the Common Application says "downloaded by the college," or your counselor has confirmed to you that something was sent, or Naviance shares some sort of status, does NOT mean that the college has put item(s) in your application file. Until you have confirmation from the college itself, you don't have confirmation–period. If you have not received confirmation within two weeks of having submitted the application, contact the admissions office to check the status of your application.

2. Resolve problems promptly. If you discover that something is missing from your application file, then it is up to you to fix the problem. Clarify exactly what is missing. Identify the fastest way to get the missing item to the college and into your application file. Then take action and get it done. Be as proactive as necessary. For example, volunteer to mail the recommendation yourself rather than wait for the recommender to find the stamp and mail it. Let the college know that you are aware of the problem and working to resolve it.

3. Call rather than email. You can often get the whole problem resolved in one phone call, whereas email often requires a long chain of back-and-forth correspondence.

4. Always be polite and respectful. No matter how frustrating these snafus are, being angry with others will probably make it harder to solve your problem, not easier. Any rudeness towards the admissions staff will also be noted and could be held against you.

5. Keep an eye out for the college-specific scholarship opportunities. Often you can’t apply for a college’s scholarships until after you’ve submitted your application.

6. Think local for other scholarship opportunities. Local sources are not as well-publicized and often underused. Many local businesses, civic, business and professional organizations offer small scholarships that can really add up. Don’t limit yourself to an internet search. Ask your school counselor, ask your parents, your friends’ parents, your boss or supervisor from any internship or job, the manager of a local business, the president of a local organization. Network, network, network. It can pay off!

Get more essay help right within your copy of Inline.

Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

52 Weeks to College: Week 45

Master Your College Interviews

Anna Ivey

November 18, 2022

52 Weeks to College: Week 45

Master Your College Interviews
November 18, 2022
Permalink

Now that you’ve submitted some applications, you are likely to be contacted for interviews at colleges where they are a part of the process. Interviews are wildly different from every other part of your application – they are a direct interaction between you and another person, and that dynamic changes everything.  There is information that gets shared in conversations that would never come out otherwise, and there are observations about behavior and demeanor that make lasting impressions. What happens in an interview is so distinctive that it always either helps or hurts; it is never neutral. Below are our top tips to get ready for your interviews.


WEEK 45 TO-DOS

THIS WEEK

  • Continue finalizing your applications one-by-one. If you’ve been following the 52 Weeks structure, your essays are finished and it is now just a matter of finalizing things for each college. For tips on finalizing, see last week’s post.
  • If you do submit any applications this week, alert your recommenders and your school counselor so that they submit the necessary supporting materials and order test score reports to be sent if necessary.


THIS WEEK AND EVERY WEEK

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

TIPS AND TRICKS

If you have opportunities to do interviews with the colleges on your list, take them! Virtual is fine, they don't have to be in person if your schedule, budget, or global pandemics interfere.

You don't need to go crazy preparing for them. Just keep these six things in mind:

1. Understand the difference between different types of interviews. Is the interview evaluative or merely informational? An interview is "evaluative" if it will become part of your application file — those are the ones that really count. The school website or admissions office should be able to tell you whether it's evaluative or not.

2. Prepare to answer four types of questions. You won't know the specific interview questions ahead of time, but make sure to prepare for questions around four topics:

  • your academic/intellectual abilities and interests
  • your accomplishments in activities outside the classroom
  • your personal background and
  • your interest in the college

If you're applying this cycle, you've probably already worked out answers to those questions in your resume and your essays in previous weeks, so you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Here's a chance to work smarter, not harder!

3. Do your homework and have your questions ready. At some point, your interviewer will likely ask you, "Do you have any questions for me?" (Often that happens towards the end of the interview.) Figuring out the right questions to ask your interviewer takes some thought, so think about them in advance. The interview is not the time to ask questions about the admissions process or to ask the most basic questions about the college. Instead, you want to ask questions that actually get to the deeper, more interesting information about the college.

4. Use your best pandemic manners. Given the pandemic, it is more likely than ever that your interview will be conducted on Zoom or some video conferencing platform. Just because you’ve been Zooming all day every day for months or years doesn’t mean you’re prepared for a Zoom interview. We like Indeed’s list of tips for how to make your best impression here, but don’t stress if the only background or space available to you isn’t quiet or pretty; work with what you have. If you are asked to do an interview in person, then observe standard pandemic safety protocols — wear a mask and observe social distancing (which obviously means you should not shake hands).

5. Practice. It is easy to practice interviewing. Recruit a parent or a teacher or some other adult to serve as your interviewer. Give them sample interview questions and a sample evaluation form and go for it! Here are some sample questions starting on page 7 of the manual that Claremont McKenna College created for its alumni interviewers — helpfully, it's still floating around on the internet. 😀 Note that there will be variations from school to school, so don't get too fixated on CMC's process.

6. Do the follow-up. Immediately after your interview, write down your impressions and add them to your personal research notes about schools. Send a thank-you letter to your interviewer, and notify the college admissions office that you have had your interview.

Get more essay help right within your copy of Inline.

Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

52 Weeks to College: Week 44

Prepare to Be Contacted by Admissions Officers

Anna Ivey

November 11, 2022

52 Weeks to College: Week 44

Prepare to Be Contacted by Admissions Officers
November 11, 2022
Permalink

Once you have submitted your applications, be aware that admissions officers or others related to the college admissions process might actually contact you! You need to be on the lookout for their communications and be prepared to respond appropriately. Here are some good habits that will serve you well throughout the process (and beyond).


WEEK 44 TO-DOS

THIS WEEK

  • Continue finalizing your applications one-by-one. If you’ve been following the 52 Weeks structure, your essays are finished and it is now just a matter of finalizing things for each college.
  • If you do submit any applications this week, alert your recommenders and your school counselor so they submit the necessary supporting materials and order test score reports to be sent if necessary.
  • Continue working on your financial aid forms. You have probably completed the FAFSA and CSS/PROFILE forms by now. So what’s left are the college-specific financial aid applications. Aim to submit these forms within a week of submitting your application to the college. And make sure that you’ve completed everything for colleges where you are applying early by their early deadline.
  • Respond to any invitations for interviews and conduct the interviews.


THIS WEEK AND EVERY WEEK


  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.

TIPS AND TRICKS

  1. Double down on checking your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications from colleges where you have applied or will be applying. This to-do is on your list every week for a reason. Colleges expect you to read, listen, and respond to what they send you! It's best to respond within 24 hours, so that means checking and responding daily. When checking your email, check your spam folders too because stuff often goes there.
  2. Answer every call from an unidentified caller. Yes, most of them will be robo-calls or other unimportant sales pitches. But some will be from admissions officers! When you answer, use your best manners. If you're in a place with a lot of noise in the background, let the call go to voicemail, and then call that person back as soon as you can have a quiet conversation.
  3. Tweak your voicemail greeting. Or for those of you who’ve never bothered to record one, do it now. Your greeting should be G-rated, courteous, and appropriate for anyone (including admissions officers) to hear.


Not appropriate:

"Sup. I'm busy playing Call of Duty. Message me."

Appropriate:

"Hi, you've reached Josh. Please leave me a message and I'll call you back."


  1. If sending or responding to an email, use complete sentences, capitalize, spell things correctly, and follow standard grammar. An email is a form of written communication and should be as polished and professional as every other written component of your application. It is a good idea to include identifying information in your signature block (full name, date of birth, and high school are the usual bits of information they use to connect your email to your application).

You’re almost there!

Get more essay help right within your copy of Inline.

Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.