Year by Year: "To Dos"
- Focus on your academics
- Work hard in swim practice, focusing on strong work ethic and character
- Adjust to High School life
- Start an ongoing Personal File system (including brief descriptions and tracking hours): grades, awards, honors, activities, employment, community service and of course, USA Swimming “Top Times Reports”.
- Meet with your college counselor to make sure your course load is both on track and appropriately challenging for college admissions.
- Focus on your academics
- Continue to work hard in swim practice and be a leader both in and outside of the pool
- Continue developing your Personal File
- If you happen to be traveling around and get a chance to “visit” college campuses, start journaling your impressions of each school, its location, the students, the facilities, philosophy, special programs, logistics, dorms, etc.
- Fall: consider registering and taking a practice PSAT exam (October each year)
- Subject Tests/AP Tests: depending on your courses, take Subject Tests and AP exams in May/June
- Begin accumulating information about various colleges and programs and create your own filing system for each school. Research and print out college team and conference results to get a feel as to what level of collegiate swimming would be a good athletic “fit”. Try to attend a few college swim meets to get a feel for collegiate competition and varying levels of competition. Meets are typically in November and January. Collegeswimming.com provides historical conference results and may be a good starting point for research.
- Recommended: register for a summer SAT prep course (Junior year is notoriously busy and test prep is one less thing to load onto your already full plate)
- Meet with your college counselor. Consider Junior Year courses that will prepare you for SAT Subject Tests and/or AP exams in Spring of Junior Year. Colleges much prefer students who challenge themselves.
Summer Between Junior and Senior Year
Orinda Aquatics College Grid:
By the end of Junior Year or at the beginning of the summer, after researching and defining your criteria for both your academic and your athletic careers, schedule a meeting with your coach to review your schools. Your coach will have lots of insights into many of the collegiate swim programs and will help you to prioritize your list. After all, they have worked with you throughout your swimming experience. They will be able to point you towards programs where they believe you could be a success athletically. They are also familiar with many of the college coaches, training and philosophies. Your coach may also suggest that you consider adding some different schools to the list. In many cases, swimmers may even decide to apply to some schools to swim and other schools strictly for academics. The process will help you to make what may be some difficult decisions and will give you a road map for the next 6 months.
Consolidated List of Application Essay Questions:
By the middle of summer, almost all colleges will have their applications/essay and personal statements available on-line. Print out a copy of each application and make a consolidated list of the essay questions/personal statements required from each of the schools you will be applying to (including the number of words required). At a minimum, begin to brainstorm your college essay topics. Ideally, 2-3 essays can be modified to satisfy most of the essay questions on the list or, of course, a student may write separate essays for each application (You are allowed to have different versions of the Common Application). In a perfect world, all these essays would be completed by the start of Senior Year as it will allow you to focus on your academics, filling out the applications and recruit trips. However, it is not a perfect world, so focus on completing all the things that you can do at this time. In brainstorming essay topics, remember that if the person next to you could write the exact same essay, then it probably isn’t a good depiction of you. The essay reader has very little time to read each essay (reading hundreds in an evening!). Their goal is learn 2-3 additional things about you that they could not glean from the application ie personality traits or characteristics, special hobbies or music taste, etc. Perhaps it is easier to speak from your heart about a specific event that happened to you or an “ah ha” academic moment that might illustrate some things about you as a unique individual? In many cases, the best essays are written in just ten or fifteen minutes. Word to the wise: avoid “the big trip” or “the big swim” essays as it is really hard to make them original. The College Board website is a good place to start to learn more about writing these essays. There are also numerous books you can read on the topic (however there is a risk that after reading all those books of essay, you may lose your own voice!)
- Prepare an overall “Application Grid” which includes the names of each school, deadlines for applications, documents and letters of recommendation required, type of application ie common, deadlines for all financial aid applications, etc. Also note when acceptance letters are expected to be sent.
- Take additional Standardized tests, if needed
- Familiarize yourself with the Admissions, School and Recruiting websites to gather team and team information available for each college that you are considering applying to. Know why you want to apply to each school.
- Go on recruit trips!
- Follow-up with coaches immediately! Reconfirm your interest in their program.
- Continue to work hard in school. Fall grades are very important to colleges/coaches.
- Follow up/double check to make sure that letters of recommendation, transcripts and applications are received in a timely manner (financial aid information too)
- Submit applications in a timely manner ie in advance of the deadlines (remember, if computers crash, it is always right around deadline time). Before submitting, make a photocopy of your application for your file (note: for some schools, you are not able to see the application once it is submitted). Make sure to keep track of any information the colleges may send you re: application ID numbers, student ID numbers, instructions for logging onto Admissions websites, passwords, financial aid, housing instructions, orientation information, etc. Know how each college is going to communicate with you.
- January: File the Free Application for Federal Student (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1st. This is not an easy form to fill out and requires a solid handle on what the current year tax returns will look like. Once submitted, it is very time consuming to make corrections. Check with your prospective colleges about additional financial aid application forms and requirements.
- Determine how you will hear from each college you have applied to as dates and communications vary greatly: traditional mail, emails, student logging into an Admissions website, etc.
- Check emails frequently for correspondence from each college.
- May 1st is the acceptance date for most schools. It is important that you notify each college that you were accepted to as your choice. If you accept college admittance before hearing from any other schools, it is important to withdraw your application from those schools.
- Congratulations! Buy college gear!