It’s that time of year when the dressage competition season here in Michigan has finished and the new season won’t begin until spring. For those not headed to Florida for winter training and shows – which includes me – that means that there’s no real pressure on our horses to be competition ready and firing on all cylinders. As such, I’ve seized the opportunity to give my gelding a few extra days off here and there and go on more trail rides as opposed to hitting the arena every single day.
I imagine that high school seniors who have completed the early rounds of their college application process feel the same way that I do right now; the bulk of their hard work is done – the essays are written and submitted, the deadlines have been met, and the letters of recommendation submitted. For those who suffered the trials of the new Common Application rollout, the bugs have largely been worked out and their forms and transcripts have been sent. Now the only thing left to do is coast through the rest of senior year, right?
Just as I have a winter schedule approaching that is filled with riding clinics that will require my gelding and I to be fit and have our heads “in the game” so to speak, high school seniors aren’t permitted to have much downtime in the winter months either. Sure, applications are done and that’s the hardest part of the college equation in a lot of ways, but that isn’t the only part that’s needed to pave your path to college next fall. Several other pieces of the puzzle come up after you’ve clicked “submit” on those applications – namely:
- The CSS Profile – Regardless of whether or not you plan to file for federal financial aid (see bullet below), many colleges and universities require all applicants to fill out this financial form (hosted by the folks at College Board) to give a broader sense of a family’s financial picture and to potentially provide institutional aid to deserving students. Due dates for the Profile can vary by institution, so you’ll need to inquire at the admission offices of the schools you’ve applied to for concrete details.
- The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – If you will enroll in your first semester of college during the 2014-2015 school year (hint – if you applied to college this fall, that’s you!) and you wish to apply for federal financial aid programs (including Pell Grants and Stafford Loans), you must file the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1, 2014. (It becomes available at midnight if you need a break from your New Year’s celebrations.) The earlier you file, the better chance you will have of receiving all of the awards available from your chosen institution.
- Investigate your merit scholarship opportunities at the schools to which you’ve applied. – Many schools will consider you for merit and other scholarships based solely on the information presented in your application to the school, but still others will require a separate application, essay, and/or interview in order for you to be in contention. Winter is the prime time for colleges and universities to begin to consider which members of their potential first-year class will qualify – and if you are on top of the qualifications, you’ll be able to take full advantage of all opportunities as they arise. (This includes art, music, and other performance-based scholarships, which often involve auditioning for faculty in various departments – also a great winter activity.)
- Find those local and regional scholarships that apply to you. – Does your church or a local organization of which you are a member offer scholarships for college students? How about 4-H, the U.S. Pony Club, or any of your equestrian organizations (local, regional, and national)? Do your parents’ employers offer scholarships to employees’ children? Or, are you simply feeling lucky?
Even with our trail rides and days off, my horse is maintaining his fitness level, he’s clipped and his mane is pulled in preparation for our clinic in three weeks, and I pay attention to things like the clarity of our transitions and degree of suppleness on those occasions when we are working in the ring – all because there is no such thing as true downtime when you want to be a successful competitor in any equestrian discipline.
Success in the college application process is much the same – there’s no time for downtime if you want to stay ahead in the admissions game and give yourself every possible advantage for a great first semester at college next fall. So put the work in now and save the downtime for summer break.
(Need help figuring out what you should be working on right now? Contact me; I’m happy to help.)