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

My 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 to embark upon this grand adventure known as the college application and admissions process.

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. [May we suggesst a good old composition notebook. Or, for the environmentally friendly, a decomposition 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 often 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 theParent 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.

*High schools utilize different versions of Naviance. Not every category (i.e., Game Plan, Brag Sheets) will be found in all editions.

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. Also narrow your college search by registering and completing detailed profiles on such search engines as CollegeData.com andCollegeRaptor.com.

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 providers such as 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.com.ScholarshipExperts.comMeritAid.comZinch.com.colleges.niche.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, underScholarships and Money) and on the College Board BigFuture website.

7. Register and Practice for the September 12 ACT and the October 3 SAT. Be sure to register at ACTstudent for the September 12 ACT and on the College Board websitefor the October 3 SAT as soon as possible. Space will fill up fast for these exams. Then, take as many practice exams (you can find many FREE practice tests online as well as through the various test prep centers) as you can between now and then. [Consider a tutor if subject matter, focus, and/or 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 and the college community beyond. A strong, compelling essay can make all the difference in the world! [Check out theCommon 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.comand ecampustours.com.

10. On August 1, Register and create your Profile at CommonApp**. While theCommon 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, provided it is NOT a school-provided email. In this way, the two can link and share information (the better to stalk you with :-)].

**While the 2015-16 Common App does not go “live” until August 1, you may (and you should familiarize yourself with it’s format and mechanics between now and July 23rd, when this season’s Common App goes dark (taking all of it’s data with it). 

11. Call COLLEGE CONNECTION, your Sherpa Guide through the college application process, and Official Sponsor of College Admission Success! [Hmmmm. Maybe this should have been #1! ;-)]

On Long Island? Attend a FREE College Planning Workshop July 15th in Garden City. [The only live public appearance of The College Whisperer™ pre-launch of the 2015-16 Common App!] REGISTER TODAY!

Again, just a relatively short list of what you should be working on now. More to follow. Stay tuned. . .
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Plan. Prepare. Prevail!

Contact us at
 COLLEGE CONNECTION, home of The College Whisperer™ and Official Sponsor of College Admission Success™, for all of your college planning needsNo one knows college admissions like COLLEGE CONNECTION. No one! 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 www.Twitter.com/GetCollege