Happy New Year! Its January 2018 already and wow time flies. As an Admissions Counselor I’ve been working with students for nearly 18 years now (that’s right, my admissions career is old enough to go to college!) and each January the whole CollegeCore team takes a giant sigh of relief, prays for successful results, and then, prepares themselves to do it all over again. But we also take this time to make our New Year’s Resolutions!

So we wanted to use our experience to lay out some Admissions Resolutions to go along with your goals of going to the gym twice a week or reading the newspaper every day.

Seniors / 12th Graders: I promise not to let senioritis set in!

Whether you were already accepted or if you were deferred from early applications, whether you are all in for college abroad or still in two minds about going abroad versus staying in India, don’t let Senioritis* ruin your efforts at this stage.

It’s difficult I know, you spent months on SAT / ACT prep, churned out essays and you just want a break already! Take a break. For a week. And then get back on the study horse.

For those who’ve been deferred or waitlisted, that strong academic performance is crucial to help you move your application into the accepted pile. And grades are important for those who’ve been accepted to college too! Colleges will see your final transcript, and they reserve the right to rescind an offer of admission or financial aid if they see a decline in a student’s grades. Each year we have to deal with frantic students who didn’t study and were in danger of getting their applications rescinding because of less than acceptable grades. They end up spending the weeks of summer, when they should be having fun, dealing with a lot of stress and sleepless nights, not knowing if they were going to college after all that work.

Work hard on your grades by making realistic and specific goals. Maybe you want a minimum of 38 on your IB exams or 92% in your CBSE Board exams. Be specific, make them attainable and put in the effort needed. When it’s time to hit the books, it is important to turn off the TV, sign out of Facebook, put your phone on silent, and really focus on work. Don’t get swept away by all the chatter from friends and strangers. Remember that someone else’s admissions decision is not a reflection on you. You need to put your head down and work.

*a phenomenon afflicting students in their final year of school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation or performance

Juniors / 11th Graders: I will realize that I need to start two months before I think I need to!

It’s here. IIt’stime. You will be sending applications this year and while 12 months feels like a long time, it isn’t!

Let’s take a quick look at what is coming down the pipeline. You need to take the SAT / ACT more than once, plus the Subject Tests. So make your schedule of when to take the tests, set score targets and get studying. Remember to have a backup plan and don’t leave testing for later because knowing your test scores is essential to creating your list of colleges and that is essential for the next steps like writing essays. As scores evolve, so do lists.

Great college applications take time. Each college will have 1-5 essays to write, plus you’ll find yourself iterating on your CommonApp essay or personal statement again and again. You may need the time to think, reflect, revise, and maybe even come back to it and edit again. All of which takes time.

Moreover, you need to give your recommenders time to work on the letters because all the teachers will be inundated at the same time. AND you need to complete applications themselves. You may also want to beef up your extracurriculars but that needs time too so that it doesn’t look superficial and clearly only for the applications. All this while going to school because remember, grades are vital!

Overwhelmed? Well not if you use ALL 12 months well. So start early. Maintain a calendar and a To Do list. Stay organized to stay sane and give your best.

Sophomores / 10th Graders: I will not wait to start my college journey next year 

Because a year from now, you will wish you would have started today. We have a two part resolution for you – Explore and Act.

Start exploring colleges. You may have heard of a few of them – UCLA, Harvard, Stanford – but there are thousands of colleges in the world. Start thinking and exploring. Put social media to good use by following the colleges on Facebook or Instagram. But also visit information sessions in the city, spend time on blogs and websites to start explore the range of countries and the different education systems out there. Going on a family vacation abroad, go visit a college! At the same time, keep track, in writing, of what you like or don’t like. This will be valuable as you make your college lists but also as you write your essays.

And then act by planning out your standardized testing. You’ve heard about the ACT and SAT. In fact I hope you’ve taken the PSAT already. But many students wait and wait to dive into test prep not realizing that sometimes you need to take a test more than once and you need time to prepare for each exam so you’re successful at them. Make a plan for it and don’t stress unduly over the result of that practice test you took – you still have more time, because you took charge early and gave yourself time.

Freshmen / 9th Graders: I will think about college and plan my time out now rather than waiting till I’m older

College feels impossibly far away. I mean you just got out of middle school! But in all honesty, College is a complicated admissions process. You need to figure out what you’re passionate about in the classroom and outside of it.

We also know that starting now doesn’t mean your 10-year plan is set in stone – over the next few years you will grow and evolve – but getting started early can mean you have plenty of runway to reach your goals.

This is the stage to lay a foundation of strong habits that will carry you through successfully.

– Get Involved: Extracurriculars are a big part of not just your application but also play a large role in figuring out what you are passionate about. Start exploring your passions, step out of your comfort zone, volunteer with the less fortunate or gain leadership in something you’ve been involved in for a while. Strengthen both your application and your personality.

– Start Reading: And not just on your phone. Pick up a book, actually pick up one new one every month and start to build a habit of reading. It will help you become a more expressive person, a stronger communicator and a better writer.

– Study Hard: Grades matter now. Colleges abroad need your grades across all 4 years of high school so put in the effort and study hard.

Parents: I will remember that my child’s college experience begins with this process, and will be supportive but will also let them take charge.

You thought we would only have 4 resolutions for students? No, this is also a stressful time for parents which is why we have a resolution for you too. Recognize that this process is difficult but is also a learning experience for your child. They learn to plan, to make mistakes and to grow from them, all skills that are essential to their success in college.

So, set up a time to chat about college but don’t plague them about it every day. Don’t take over the process for them because you feel they are overwhelmed because you end up sabotaging them in the process. You can help. In fact, you SHOULD help, you know your child best. You can get excited for them but when you drop them off at the college or at the airport, they will be the one making friends, taking classes, and growing up. Help them find the place where they can make the most of their opportunities.

Don’t compare your child to Mrs. Sharma’s son Rahul who went to Harvard and get caught up in an arm’s race. Each college is unique and just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t good for your child. You brought up your children with different values than Mrs. Sharma, each decision you made is slightly different, so why not let the college also be different instead of copying someone else? Let your kid, be a kid while they are going through this difficult time. Help them relax so that they can focus when they need to. But more than anything, remember, it’s their college decision. Be your supportive self, but let them take charge.

So happy New Year to all our readers out there. And remember, if there are ever admissions-related questions, CollegeCore Education is here to help.