Hello everybody! August 1st is a very important date! First, and foremost, it’s my birthday! Second, it’s the day that the Common Application (commonapp.org) opened its doors for all potential 2016/7 college applicants. If you’re a senior and just now thinking about college, you better go faster than the speed of light!
Whether you are deaf, hard of hearing, or neither, you really should start thinking about colleges during middle school or freshmen years. Here’s a tip for parents – take us out on exploratory college tours to learn what the process will be like early, i.e. long before junior year spring break. And teens – listen to your parents and teachers, they really want more for you than to clean your room and do your homework; they want you to be happy and successful. My parents took me on my first official college visit when I was a freshman. They had been telling me what I need to do for college all through middle school (but, you know, I didn’t really pay attention then); it really helped to have everything they were saying reiterated by an admissions officer.
Getting serious about applying to college starts in junior year – i.e. taking standardized admissions tests (SAT or ACT) and researching college options and environments.
- Start practicing the SAT (or ACT); you don’t need an 800, but still put your best foot forward. If you have testing accommodations in your IEP, make sure to send that information to the testing centers early. If you’re unhappy with your scores, you can always retake the exams. By starting the testing process in junior year you give yourself time to take another test during the fall of senior year.
- There are so many good colleges out there, but you can’t apply for all of them (Darn!). At a minimum you should pick at least three: a dream school that you would love to get into, a medium school that would likely accept you, and a safety school (but don’t tell the schools you’re applying to that they are anything but dream school).
- In addition to academics, you should think about what environment you want to live in. Do you want immersion in the Deaf culture? Try Gallaudet (Gallaudet.edu). Mainstream with very inclusive D/deaf culture? Try RIT/NTID (ntid.rit.edu). Or mainstream? Speak to your guidance counselor, favorite teachers, and parents for other college recommendations. There are TONS of online surveys that will suggest a list of colleges based on your interests, size of school, population of city, geographic location, greek systems, etc. In the end, you want to make the decision based on what’s right for YOU.
Senior year is when the real fun begins! Applications ask you to enter all your demographic data, courses, grades, activities, awards (only since high school, don’t enter the third grade art award you won), and everybody’s favorite, essays. And more essays. Many schools have supplemental essays required in addition to the Common App. There are schools that don’t use the Common App, and have their own essay questions. Essays allow you demonstrate something unique, something the admissions office wouldn’t know from glancing at the rest of the application. This is where you can talk about your challenges as a deaf or hard of hearing teen or some other aspect of your life. The essays are where you put your best foot forward after it has been pedicured, fussed over, and pedicured again. Strain over every little detail of your essays, because words (and sometimes characters) count. Literally. Most college forms have a word or character count, so you need to be succinct.
In addition to the application itself, you’ll need to ask people for recommendations, get copies of your transcripts sent to the colleges, and for some schools, set up an interview.
- One important thing about recommendations – be grateful. Make it easy for your recommenders by giving them information summarizing what you’ve done. They should know you from a class or some other activity, but since they are also writing other students’ recommendations as well, help them recall the highlights of your time with them. As one of my teachers (and recommenders) stated, no one is paid to write a recommendation; so show you appreciation in the form of heart-felt thank you notes, a batch of cookies, and maybe a small gift.
- Be aware that your high school registrar is sending off transcripts for most of the seniors, so be kind and don’t wait until the last week or day before they are due. I advise doing everything well before deadlines for submissions. Full disclosure: while I asked for recommendations and transcripts in August/September of senior year, my own application and essay submissions were sent 12/31 for a 1/1 deadline!
- Be prepared for interviews, although not all schools require them. Most of my interviewers suggested meeting at Starbucks, where it would be too loud. I suggested a better place to meet, a conference room in the library or at school, where we could have a quiet, one-on-one interview. I had one phone interview, but we did that via FaceTime, which worked quite nicely. Just be yourself, be nice to the interviewer, and send a thank you note afterward. I found that the most common question the interviewer will ask is “So Miss Chloe, tell me about yourself.” After that, the interview is more like a conversation. You can ask the interviewer questions about the school and they will share their experiences at college. Taken as a whole, an interview is both informative for both you and the school.
Once you have submitted your application, you might want to take a breath, but don’t stop! Up next are applications for financial aid, scholarships, and college updates.
- Financial aid deadlines frequently occur before you find out if you get into that college or not. Even if you miss the deadline, you should complete the application – they might still consider it.
- Scholarships can be like mini-college applications. Some ask for recommendations, transcripts, and even more essays! Scholarships may be based on anything: school specific, professional goals, majors, geography, sports, passionate issues, and guess what? there are even some scholarships specifically for deaf and hard of hearing! Not all are open to everyone, some are specific to hearing aids vs. cochlear implants, degree of hearing loss, state residency, but here are some places to start looking:
- College updates are relatively simple, and give you an opportunity to supplement your application with everything you did since the actual submission. Some schools have specific mechanisms for collecting updates, others do not. For those that don’t offer an update form, send an email update.
I hope my helpful tips for applying to colleges helps you. In summary, start early! Good luck!
And yes, I got into my dream school and will be off to college next month! If you're wondering why I am not posting in September, it will be because I am getting settled, figuring out classes, signing up for too many clubs and having fun!