Getting the ball rolling on college planning is one of the most difficult steps in the entire process. There are two arenas of the application process to consider: the personal and the logistical. Logistical planning starts with mapping out the timeline, and taking stock of all the steps that must be taken to get applications in. (We’ll save that for another day.) 

The foundation for a successful transition to college is careful personal reflection. Invariably, the most stand-out college applications come from students who learn how to make decisions rooted in their core values, how to identify their key short- and long-term goals, and how to communicate those elements to others.

These are the components at the center of the story your college applications will tell. Here are some questions to get you started:

What do I value most about myself, about who I am as a person?
What do I stand for?

What do I value most in others?
What qualities do my closest friends share?

What do I value most in my life?
What do I want to see in the world around me?
What do I want my life’s work to be about?

What three words or phrases would the people who know me best use to describe me? 

How do I pursue my interests?
What would I like to pursue over the next few years, and how?

What are my greatest strengths?

What are my greatest areas of concern?

The answers to these questions make up what I call your StoryCore. Choose the top three responses from the list above, and see if you can put them into a sentence or two. 

The StoryCore statement should a personal elevator pitch. It’s the language that students can lead with in nearly every aspect of the admissions process: college essays, alumni interviews, introducing themselves to college representative, etc. 

The StoryCore is also a guide for asking questions about colleges that are focused on the individual student’s needs, which in turn leads to applying to schools that are a better fit. Better fit means better chances of acceptance, not to mention more success and happiness once a student chooses to attend a particular college.

It is never too early to start work on the StoryCore! It’s an iterative process; your answers will continue to evolve over time as your circumstances shift and as you experience new things. The best part is that it can be a template for making big decisions long after both high school and college graduation.