What Chicago High School Seniors should do BEFORE the strike

One of the biggest stressors for college bound seniors is meeting deadlines for the various steps in the college application process. If Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers go on strike next week, students may find it more difficult to meet these deadlines because they may not have the support system from school based guidance counselors, teachers and other professionals.

There’s no telling when the Chicago Teacher’s Union and the Chicago Board of Education will reach an agreement on a new contract, it can happen before this blog is posted or can last indefinitely. Therefore, Chicago’s college bound high school seniors need to take the initiative and complete the steps in the list below as soon as they start school on Tuesday, September 4, 2012.

Order Transcripts

Every college requires applicants to submit copies of their high school transcripts. Order multiple copies of your official high school transcript from your school. While you’re in the school office, order copies of your school medical records as well. Also, order one copy of your unofficial transcript for yourself.


When I worked in college admissions, a well written recommendation letter was often the deciding factor in whether an applicant was recommended for admission. Reach out to some of your former teachers and coaches and ask them to write a recommendation on your behalf. If you are applying to multiple colleges, be sure the writer knows to give you several copies, each with an original signature.  As the teachers will might not be receiving a paycheck during the strike, lighten their burden by offering to supply them with resume quality paper and envelopes.

While on the subject of recommendation letters, shy away from asking a high school guidance counselor for a recommendation letter, (unless their experience with you is in a different capacity.) When a college admissions officer sees a recommendation from a counselor, the first question that pops up in our minds is “Why couldn’t this student find a teacher or coach that could vouch for their skills, knowledge and abilities?”


Most college and scholarship applications require applicants to submit an essay as part of the application process.  Write a draft of your essay(s) and request that a teacher or counselor review it.  Be sure to give the reviewer your personal contact information in case they need to contact you during the strike.


Students interested in the arts and music often have to submit a portfolio of their work with their admissions or scholarship applications.  Pick up any projects that may still be at the school.  If you can’t remove them from the school, take photos of the projects or make a video of your work.

If you already have a portfolio completed, bring it with you on the first day of classes and ask your teachers to review it.  If you must leave it with them, try leaving them with copies rather than originals or if possible, leave photos or video of your work instead.  Be sure the teacher has your personal contact information in case they need to reach you during the strike.

Volunteer Opportunities

Do you still need to complete your volunteer hours in order to graduate?  If there is a strike, the Chicago Public Library System and the Chicago Park District may pick up some of the slack by offering extra programs. Talk to your principal or librarian or with the ones at your local grade school about volunteer opportunities that may come about as a result of the strike.


You might be out of school for a while but you’re still going to need to study in order to prepare for college entrance exams.  Ask your teachers for homework and study materials you can do on your own.  Also, be sure to take home all your text books. If you’re on a sports team, ask your coach to help you develop a personal training regimen that will help you remain at the top of your game.


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