Strong Families, Strong Daughters Blog

Six Tips for Your Daughter’s College Application Journey

Miranda Johnson 

As seniors celebrate their college acceptances and prepare for graduation, younger high school students may be wondering what they can do to find success in their college search next year.

Although summer is just around the corner, now is a great time to think ahead and prepare. Here are some things to keep in mind as your daughter prepares for the college application process. 

  1. Prioritize grades. What is the most important thing your daughter can do to make a good impression on colleges? Keep studying and keep her grades up. This is important even for seniors in their spring semester. Schools want to see that their potential students are serious about their studies and have a great work ethic. This is especially important as more colleges and universities go standardized test-optional. 
  2. When do you need to visit colleges and take standardized tests? Students can take the SAT or ACT the fall of their junior year. However, it’s preferable to wait until at least spring of junior year to do this, as it really helps to have a whole year of junior math before taking the test. As for visiting colleges, families should not feel pressure to make visits at a particular time during high school. While there is a benefit to visiting colleges when classes are in session, some families prefer to visit colleges in the summer between sophomore and junior years. Some wait until they are accepted to schools, and then visit those schools to help them decide whether to attend. It is ultimately a matter of personal prudence and preference. 
  3. Familiarize yourself with the Common App. The Common App is an online undergraduate college admission application that is used by hundreds of schools. Students can fill out all their information and submit their college essays to multiple schools all in one place. This saves the time and hassle of having to go to multiple websites to apply to schools. The Common App also provides a very useful scholarship finder feature that helps students find scholarships to apply for based on their information. 
  4. Don’t stress about the extracurriculars. When it comes to service and activities outside of academics, there are no specific checkboxes a student has to fulfill. United States service academies want examples of leadership, but most schools aren’t looking for specific extracurricular activities on the student’s resume. Pursue things that truly matter to you. This passion will come through on your application and in your essay. And when considering your service and leadership experience, don’t discount the ways that you serve and lead at home! Colleges take that into account. 
  5. Get to know these common terms. 
    1. Early Decision—When a student applies Early Decision to a school, she is legally bound to attend if she’s accepted. Doing Early Decision can boost your chances if you’re applying to an Ivy League School. However, you have to commit to going without knowing how much financial aid you will receive.
    2. Deferred—If you’ve applied to a school and been deferred, this means that you’re a great fit for the school and high on their list, but you missed the cutoff for their first pool of early action applicants. Your application is still under active consideration. When the admissions board goes back to review students for regular decision, you have a good chance of getting accepted. 
    3. Waitlisted—If a student has been waitlisted, her school of choice has completely filled its class. She might be accepted if someone decides to decline admission. 
  6. Don’t forget kindness. It’s important to be compassionate with yourself and others throughout this entire process. Don’t waste time comparing your application experience with others. There are so many unique factors that go into each student’s decision—from location to subjects that are important to you—that it’s impossible to compare. And remember to be thoughtful of others as college acceptance time rolls around. It can be a stressful and emotionally challenging time for many, so be considerate of other students as you celebrate your own acceptances. 

Miranda Johnson is the Director of College Counseling at Oakcrest. She earned a B.A. in History from Clemson University and an M.A. in Workforce Development and Education from The Ohio State University. She has eight years of experience working in higher education, including three years of experience in medical school admissions. She is motivated and passionate about working with students and helping them succeed in their academic and career endeavors. In her spare time, Miranda enjoys quilting, spending time with her husband and two dogs, and watching Clemson Football.