If there is a single question The College Whisperer is asked most about the college application process, it is, "Where do I begin?"

Our typical response is, "At the beginning, of course!" ;-)

Seriously, though, getting started down that long and winding road to college admissions, as it is with many things in life, is often the most difficult part of the journey.

So, what will follow below is a basic (very basic, as in, just to give you a push) primer -- a "To Do" list, if you will -- to set you on your way as you prepare for the launch of this grand adventure known as the college application season.

Before we run down that list, however, here's a simple, yet critical thought to keep you on track -- if not relatively sane -- during your journey: 

Whenever you have or create a login/password combo (i.e., Naviance, CommonApp, College Board/ACTstudent, college websites, scholarship search engines), write it down in a notebook. In this way, you will always have those pesky logins and passwords at hand, and never find yourself saying, "Damn. I thought that was the password..."

And now, that list:

1. Build that Resume on Naviance. This is first and foremost, and a prelude to the resume you will create on Common App, if not elsewhere. Remember, Guidance and the teachers who will write your recommendations rely upon your Naviance Resume, and colleges, through Common App, will have limited access to it. Find the Resume Builder in Naviance in the About Me section, under Resume. Be sure to include every activity, including academic, extracurricular and community, since 9th Grade. 

2. Complete the Naviance Game Plan. This will help to narrow down your college choices. Find this in the About Me section.

3. Complete Naviance Brag Sheets. Pat yourself on the back a bit and toot your own horn. Complete the Student Brag Sheet, and ask Mom and Dad to complete the Parent Brag Sheet. Important reference tool for Guidance and in completing the application process. Brag Sheets are found in the About Me section, under Surveys To Take

4. Complete the Naviance SuperMatch College Search. This is a useful tool that will help match your interests, academics, career goals, grades and scores to colleges that are a good fit for you. Not a perfect tool, but a good place to get a feel for your target and safety schools. Find SuperMatch in the Colleges section, under College Research.

5. Get A Dedicated Email Address. Consider getting an email address exclusively for your college applications, scholarships, etc. [Most students find Gmail works well.] You will avoid the spam, lost messages, and the problems often associated with AOL. Something simple like YourName@gmail.com would give you a dedicated portal for everything college. It also appears "professional" and serious to college admissions officers!

6. Sign Up & Register with Scholarship Search Engines.   Fastweb.comCappex.comScholarshipExperts.comMeritAid.comZinch.com
CollegeProwler.com. All great places to begin your search for FREE money for college. Be sure to complete the profiles on each search engine after you sign up. Then, search and apply for applicable scholarships, both on-site and via the emails you will begin to receive. [Again, a dedicated email address is helpful here!] An early start (as in, yesterday LOL) in the scholarship search could mean real money when that tuition bill arrives. Also, take advantage of the scholarship search tools on Naviance (in the Colleges section, under Scholarships and Money) and on the College Board BigFuture website.

7. Register and Practice for the September 21 ACT and the October 5 SAT. Be sure to register at ACTstudent for the September 21 ACT and on the College Board website for the October 5 SAT as soon as possible. Space will fill up fast for this exam. Then, take as many practice exams as you can between now and then. [Consider a tutor if subject matter, focus and time management are issues.] Practice is truly the best way to raise your scores!  [If that old standardized test doesn't prove to be your forte, you may also want to consider "Test Optional" colleges. At least having a couple of these schools on your list, while no guarantee of admission, should increase your comfort level.]

8. Begin to Work on the College Essays. Remember, outside of grades and scores, the essays (personal statement and supplemental essays, if any) are the best way to show college admissions officers who you are, who you hope to become over the next four years, and what you would bring to campus. A strong, compelling essay can make all the difference in the world! [Check out the new Common App essay prompts!]

9. Visit Campus. If not in person (that can wait until the fall), then certainly online via virtual tours, such as YouniversityTV.comCampusTours.com, andecampustours.com.

10. On August 1, Register at CommonApp. While the Common App launches August 1, there is no rush to submit your college applications before the fall. You should, however, register and complete the online profile. [Hint: Use the same email address as you did for Naviance. In this way, the two can link and share information (the better to stalk you with :-)].

Again, just a relatively short list of what you should be working on in July. More to follow, particularly when Common App goes "live" on August 1. 

Plan. Prepare. Prevail! 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of
The College Whisperer

Who knows what peril lurks in the college application and admissions process?
The College Whisperer knows. . . 
* * * 
Comments? Questions for The College Whisperer

Write us at

The College Whisperer™
and Official Sponsor of College Admission Success are Trademarks of COLLEGE CONNECTION.  The road to college begins at COLLEGE CONNECTION! Whether you are planning for college, applying to college, paying for college or simply thinking about college, COLLEGE CONNECTION can help! Call TODAY for a FREE telephone consultation. 516-345-8766 

For up-to-the-minute news, apps, info and insights on college applications, admissions, scholarships and just about everything college, follow The College Whisperer™ on Twitter at