Mid-September College Guy Rant for Seniors - an early "TO DO" list, and THE GRID!!!

Hi seniors - Gary the College Guy checking in to make sure everyone's off to a good start this school year, and to remind you to keep moving with your college research and preparation and application process.
To wit you should be working on the following:
***Completing the common application (and individual college applications if you're applying to schools which don't accept the common app).
***Prepping for October or November SATs, Subject Tests and/or ACT tests. Use the self-prep system I've described in earlier rants - ask me to resend this if you forgot. 
The registration deadline for the October 24th ACT is THIS FRIDAY, September 18th. The registration deadline for the November 7th SAT Reasoning Test or Subject Tests is October 9th. (Call me if you've got questions about which tests to take, and when.)
You'll note that when you register for these tests you're allowed to request four free score reports - take advantage of this. If you're worried about what scores you're going to want colleges to see, go ahead and choose four of your safety schools to send the scores to. Then once you've seen your scores you can have them sent (for $11.25 per school) to the rest of your colleges.
***Writing your first essay - respond to one of the five common application prompts. Then work on a second essay (to include in the "additional information" section of the common application. Why not????)
*** Updating your resume - those of you who've met with me should use the template I've given you. (To those of you who haven't met with me: what are you waiting for??? I'm open for business and still meeting with seniors, though it's getting late in the game!)
*** Requesting letters of recommendation from teachers and "others". An "other" is a coach, employer, advisor, peer or family friend who knows you outside of the classroom. I counsel students to submit one or two extra letters of recommendation with each application, and one or two more in late January/early February with their "follow up" package. More on this later.
When you ask for a letter of recommendation give the person a copy of your resume, your timetable (Nov. 1 for EA and ED, December 1 for regular decision) and an idea of your school list (your "top 10" list). If your school uses Naviance you need to link your common application to your school Naviance account - ask in guidance for instructions, or give me a holler if you're confused by all this.
*** Continuing your college research. I direct students I work with to have a "Top 10" list of schools which represent their current top interests, as well as a blend of reach and safety schools, both in terms of likelihood of getting accepted, and affordability. By early November you should be done with this research, and have your final list of schools you're going to apply to. How many schools should you apply to? There's no right answer, but I recommend somewhere between three and eight, depending on a number of factors.
*** Creating a "show and tell" piece. Something you can give every college above and beyond their requirements, which will delight and impress them, and make them more likely to accept you. Call or email me if you want suggestions.
*** and last but not least, completing "THE GRID", which I've attached as a word document. (If you're reading this rant on my web page you can contact me via my email or phone to receive a copy of THE GRID).
Remember I've told you that the Common Application is a "one size fits all" application, and that you apply to every college exactly the same way?
Well I lied. 
For all intent and purposes I wanted you to think of the above as true, and your focus should continue to be on completing the common app and putting together the best essays, resume, letters of rec and show & tell pieces you can, which all your colleges will receive. 
However there can be some variation in what colleges require in order for you to apply - particularly among the handful of more selective colleges. THE GRID is designed to help you record each unique requirement individual schools may ask of you.
Read the page two explanation on THE GRID - it's pretty self explanatory.
Note also that THE GRID allows you to capture, from each college's web page, specific information about three additional variables in the admissions game: INTERVIEWING, HONORS PROGRAMS and SCHOLARSHIPS.
Not every college will offer or expect interviews (although you should try your best to take an interview whenever possible - remember that "facetime is good time"). No need to travel to far off schools to interview - most schools will offer alumni or skype or phone interviews.
Not every college has an honors program, but it's worth checking, particularly at public or State Universities. Some will automatically consider you - others have specific additional application requirements.
Not every college offers merit scholarships (the most selective schools generally DO NOT) but most schools do. Some schools have no special requirements and will automatically consider you - others have specific additional requirements to apply for scholarships. 
You won't find any of this additional information on the Common Application. You MUST go to each of your schools' admissions web page and read the fine print.
Okay - " Praemonitus, praemunitus", which means "forewarned is forearmed". Don't say no one ever told you about this.
In future I'll write about financial aid applications, and some other pertinent news for those of you about to send in your applications.
As always, if you feel my rants are of value to you, please share them with your senior friends and neighbors. I send different rants to underclassmen and their parents so if you know of juniors and sophomores who may benefit from being on my list tell them about me, or send me their name, year in school and email address and I'll sign them up.
Also as always, if you feel you need some handholding or butt kicking to help you with this process, give me a call (and have your parents contact me as well) and I'll explain what I do and how I do it. That's why I'm here!
For now, stay groovy, and enjoy this nice weather.  
P.S. Slate on-line magazine has started a series of podcasts on the subject of college admissions. The first one is pretty good, and you can listen to it here:
Gary L. Canter
College Placement Services
210 St. John Street
Portland, Maine 04102
(207) 772-9711 
College Placement Services provides high school students and their families assistance with all aspects of the college search, selection, application and financial aid process.