Get Ahead of the Admissions Curve: Early Planning Was the Key to Our Success

Three teen girls studying together in the library with one teen girl smiling at the camera

Get Ahead of the Admissions Curve: Early Planning Was the Key to Our Success

Published on November 21, 2023

Three teen girls studying together in the library with one teen girl smiling at the camera

This story, as told by Fidela L. was first published in our Paying for College 101 Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow. (Go here to read the original post and the nearly 100 comments from other group members.)

As the parent of a high school senior who has officially graduated and chosen the University of Kentucky for her next educational journey, I wanted to share our personal experiences and the strategies that helped us get through this important year. Our approach was all about early planning to ensure that my daughter could enjoy her senior year with as little stress as possible.

Summer Preparation: Setting the Foundation

At the end of the previous school year, we had a heart-to-heart conversation about the importance of working on college-related tasks over the summer. Our goal was not only to complete these tasks but also to allow her to savor her senior year without being overwhelmed. 

Additionally, she had her sights set on trying out for Air Rifle in her sophomore year of college, so we began by researching universities with Air Rifle programs and exploring non-air rifle schools as well, in case her interests shifted.

Creating an Organized Approach: The Spreadsheet

To streamline the college application process, I created a comprehensive spreadsheet with multiple tabs. It served as our personal central hub for organizing information. Once we had a list of potential schools, I encouraged my daughter to take charge of her college research. 

For the next two weeks, she delved into tuition costs, admission requirements, whether schools required essays or supplemental questions, and crucially, she researched the communities surrounding each institution. I believed it was essential for her to feel a sense of belonging in her future environment, so understanding the city and surroundings was an important part of our personal research.

Essay Writing and SAT Prep: A Structured Timeline

With the initial research completed, we turned our focus to the college essays. 

I designed a structured timeline to help her manage the workload efficiently. Each week, I assigned a specific essay-related task, giving her the freedom to decide how and when to accomplish it, as long as it was completed within the week. For instance, one week was dedicated to outlining and drafting essays, the following week to the actual writing, and the subsequent two weeks for editing and seeking input from former English teachers. By the fifth week, final drafts were ready for submission. She ultimately wrote four essays, three of which she used for her applications.

Alongside essay writing, I provided her with an SAT prep book, allocating three hours of study per week. I granted her the autonomy to manage her study hours as she saw fit. Knowing that she wasn’t a strong test-taker and had an underwhelming performance in the fall SAT, I respected her decision not to retake it, especially since most of the schools she applied to were test-optional.

Letting her choose the less stressful path by not taking the SAT again paid off; she applied to eight schools and was accepted to seven and waitlisted at one.

Strategic College Tours: Early Exploration

To gain a deeper understanding of the colleges on her list, we embarked on college tours between her sophomore and junior years. These visits helped her get a feel for campus life and environment, providing personal, valuable insights to aid her decision-making process. After receiving her acceptance letter from the University of Kentucky, we visited the campus again before making her final decision.

Conclusion: The Power of Early Planning

All of our essays, college choices, and research were completed before the start of her senior year. This approach not only made the application process easier but also alleviated a significant amount of stress for both of us. 

While my daughter was not initially thrilled about the early start last summer, by October, she expressed her gratitude for the preparation because she witnessed the stress her friends and classmates were enduring as they balanced school, extracurricular activities, and college preparation. It was a decision that ultimately paid off, and we hope that our personal experience can provide inspiration to rising seniors and their parents as they embark on their own college application journey. Best of luck to the upcoming senior parents!


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

How Students Should Spend the Summer Before Senior Year

A Summer Checklist for Rising High School Juniors and Seniors

Making the Most of Summer Activities for High School Students




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