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Creating your support system: Finding help for the college application proces

By: coconnell
Jul 03, 2009

As much as going off to college is a growing experience that enables you to test your limits, discover yourself and become a more capable individual – getting there requires a team effort. Without getting too deep, imagine a boat – you are the captain, you steer, make key decisions and set goals – but what good is just a great captain? To be successful in your college and/or scholarship endeavors, creating a strong support network is essential.
Navigating the waters the collegiate process is intimidating – standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, essay writing, applications, financial documents, deadlines – your to-do list never seems to end and on top of that you are still in high school taking classes and participating in sports, music or clubs. By establishing a strong group of individuals who care about your success, you can make your entrance to college that much smoother.
Go home: Per usual, your first place you should turn to for help is your family. While your parents may work or perhaps they never went to college themselves, you can enlist the help of an older sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle. Family members in particular have a vested interest in seeing you do your best and more importantly, they know you best. Try reading your admissions essay to a sibling – don’t tell them what it is for – and ask “Is this me?” If the answer is yes, you probably did a solid job of finding your voice.
Blast from the past: Your current teachers see a lot of you everyday in class, so it may be a wise choice to turn to a teacher from earlier in high school for advice, letters of recommendations and essay editing as they have seen you develop intellectually over the course of a full year. Teachers love to claim you as their own, so asking a former teacher to edit your essay, practice an interview or just discuss where to apply makes them feel like a part of your future success. Additionally, most schools will solicit nominations for scholarships and awards from the staff, so staying in contact with former teachers optimizes your chance of a nomination.
Look around: Some of my most meaningful college discussions came from discussions with “non-teachers” at school – librarians, office staff or coaches can provide you with some valuable insight that others may overlook. Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with other adults at school about their experience with college admissions, you never know what piece of knowledge you may discover. One of our school administrators asked me where I was applying and when I told him – he gave me the names of former students who were currently attending those schools.
In addition to this list, your guidance counselor is an important resource. Oftentimes, students go through high school and never talk to their counselor until senior year. Make a point to stop by occasionally, get to know your counselor, tell them what you are up to and make sure they are aware of everything you do. Don’t be shy and ask them for help with finding colleges, summer opportunities, scholarships or awards; when it comes time to solicit recommendations or be nominated for an award – they will already have you in the front of their mind.
Throughout all of these relationships you will undoubtedly build, the fine points go a long way – write thank you notes (don’t just send an email), take an interest in what they are doing personally and ask them for help in a timely manner. As much as the college admissions process is about showcasing you, attention to detail when asking for help among teachers, family members and mentors speaks volumes about you as an individual – and that does not go unrecognized.
So before you begin the long and arduous expedition that is college applications, sit down and plan out who you will ask for help, what you will ask them for and how you will demonstrate your appreciation. You will be surprised how much your support team can do for you; after all, you’re the captain of this ship. Good luck!

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