Time to start thinking about college applications

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As Thanksgiving break approaches, most students are daydreaming about turkey dinners and pumpkin pie. Seniors on the other hand, are thinking about one thing: college applications.

Since most regular application deadlines fall between December and January, the end of November is crunch time for college-bound seniors. For those trying to navigate the application process by themselves, however, the procedure can be quite confusing.

“It was very difficult to understand which scholarships I was eligible for,” said T.C. Williams senior Atlee Webber. “I also tried to write my own rsum, but the people I showed it to made a lot of corrections.”

There are resources at T.C. Williams High School available to students applying for college. One place that seniors can get college advice is in room A121, home to T.C.’s branch of the College Guide Program. According to the University of Virginias website, this program was started at the university in 2005 with the goal of “help[ing] more Virginia students attend college or other postsecondary training.

Michelle Salmiery, a 2007 UVA graduate, is this year’s college guide. “My role at T.C. is to help high school kids with the college process as a whole,” Salmiery said. “I handle pretty much anything college-related, whether it be recommendations, essays, or scholarship information.”

Having recently gone through the college application process herself, Salmiery has a lot of advice for seniors. She advises applying online since it is easier to make corrections to digital applications than paper ones.

As far as teacher recommendations, Salmiery said, Pay attention as to whether colleges require a certain kind of teacher to write a recommendation. If not, youth group leaders and supervisors of other teen organizations are equally good options.

Salmiery also offers to revise essays, but suggested that students have multiple people read essays to receive more feedback. Make sure your essay is primarily about you and shows how youll contribute to the school youre applying for, said Salmiery. Dont be afraid to write about yourself.

Later in the application process, guidance counselors become another important resource for seniors. Jennifer Stackhouse, who is new to T.C. this year, works as a guidance counselor for Academy 2.

While guidance is more than willing to answer student questions about most anything relating to college, the main function of the guidance office is to help put together a packet for each college to which a student applies, said Stackhouse. This packet typically consists of your student profile, transcript, teacher recommendations, secondary school report, and activities list.

A relatively recent addition to this packet is the student rsum, which Stackhouse said is now being required by all T.C. guidance counselors. The rsum is essentially a summary of all the information found within the college application itself. Directions for writing a rsum can be found in a folder of college-related information that was distributed to all seniors at their beginning-of-the-year counselor meeting.

Stackhouse also said that every college requires a counselor recommendation letter.  Therefore, all T.C. students are guaranteed to receive this letter for his or her college packet.  The information for this letter comes from your teachers, rsum, and the one-on-one time we spend with you, said Stackhouse. Be sure to stop by [the guidance counselors offices] so we can get to know you better!

Colleges also offer information to prospective students about their applications. Andrew Flagel, who is the associate vice president of the admissions office at George Mason University, recently posted application guidelines and common errors on his blog, http://notjustadmissions.wordpress.com/.  Flagel emphasized that your name on all test scores, transcripts, and other official documents must match what you write on the application to avoid confusion.

Submit your application before you start sending other documents, said Flagel. Keep copies of everything you send and a record of the date you sent it, and check in with the college to make sure they get the information.

When asked for his final piece of advice, Flagel put the stress of applying for college into perspective. There are many great schools for each student, not just one perfect institution, said Flagel. Your success has little to do with which college you attend.

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