Who are your people?


John Carpenter

I’ll tell you a secret. Every single year, the night before the first day of school, I get a little nervous. 

You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s that inside-your-stomach jumpiness that comes right before something big happens, and though it feels kind of weird, I’ve discovered it’s actually a pretty good thing. That nervous feeling reminds us that beginnings are important, and when something is important, we want to get it right.

First day of high schoolThere is so much to do at the beginning of a school year–especially if it’s your senior year, and of course, a lot of what needs to get done is connected to applying to college. And you definitely want to get that right! So, let’s think about one of the things that can help you turn the beginning of the school year into something that will also be advantageous to you as you organize yourself for applying to college.

The key word is PEOPLE. That’s right. Part of the energy that comes with starting a new school year is a result of all the people in your life now: old friends, new teachers, new kids in class, buddies who were gone all summer at camp or traveling, new teams of starting and returning athletes. There’s a lot going on with the people who surround you the first few weeks of school.

So, one way to get organized for college apps, is to make a list of the PEOPLE you need to connect with now. It takes a whole lot of people to get you into college, and the smarter you are, the sooner you will identify and talk to the people who will be supporting you in the process.

First, your high school counselor is one of your main people to connect with. Make time to spend with your counselor to be sure that she or he knows exactly what your goals are, where you want to apply, what you see as your strengths, and when all the documentation needs to be sent to the colleges. This person will write a recommendation for you, so be sure your counselor understands you.

And speaking of recommendations, you will need to connect with one or two teachers who know you well enough to write honest, praiseworthy endorsements for you. Be sure to touch base with them soon.

Likewise, if athletic recruitment is part of your plan for getting admitted to college, be sure you’re communicating with your coach about potential programs, training, contacts, and videos.

JohnslistAnother set of very important people for you as school begins is your parents. That’s right. You need to connect with them especially now to be sure that you are all on the same page (more or less) regarding your list of schools, and where the money to pay for everything is going to come from.

Last, for now anyway, are the admissions officers at each school where you want to apply. You have a few months to figure out who the folks are who represent the colleges you like, so meet them and let them get to know you. Make a good impression, but don’t stalk. Just be sure they know who you are and what your strengths are.

It’s good to know who your people are, and the first part of any school year is a perfect time to reach out to them so that you are all working together in an organized way. It’s up to you to organize who’s going to do what, so use that energy you’re feeling now to strengthen connections, make new ones, and enjoy those human beings who are all working together on your behalf. And don’t forget to let them know how much you appreciate what they’re doing for you. “Thank you” goes a really long way.

SCV Plane with trail

John Carpenter is the owner of askjohnaboutcollege.com, an independent on-line admissions resource for students and families. He is also the author of Going Geek: What Every Smart Kid (and Every Smart Parent) Should Know about College Admissions, which is available through Amazon. In addition, he has presented with colleagues on college admissions-related topics at many venues including NACAC national conferences, ECIS European conferences, MOACAC state meetings, OACAC and ACCIS. He was a founding Executive Committee member of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools. John currently is the Director of Admissions and University Counseling at the United World College Costa Rica, where he is surrounded by the coolest and geekiest kids from all across the world. 

One Reply to “Who are your people?”

  1. Lori Lavender Luz

    As the wife of an educator, I second the word “soon” when talking about approaching a teacher. Don’t wait until the day your application is due to ask your favorite teacher to write a considered and thoughtful letter on your behalf. S/he may have one or two (or a thousand) other things going on. Give him/her time to write a decent letter.

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