Over New Year’s weekend, I visited a friend’s home for dinner one evening. Another guest, a high school senior had filed her college applications well in advance of the January first deadlines, but took advantage of our host’s secure internet connection to check the status of each and every application on the eve of the final deadlines. She wasn’t among the thousands of students who were, according to The Common Application, submitting forms at the rate of 13.6 forms per second in the last 10 minutes of January 1. Today, however, she, like many other high school seniors, waits.
It’s a combination of relief and letdown when the final application has been submitted. So many of my students are exhausted. They are tired of writing, frustrated with second and third guessing themselves, and done with clarifying their reasons for applying to College X or University Y. At the same time, with that final “submit” comes the realization that it isn’t a process they have control of any longer. They wait.
In the time between January and late March, while admissions officers read and debate thousands of files, there are a few things that applicants can do.
1) Complete financial aid forms. The FAFSA forms and the CSS profile are based upon income tax data that is now available. Work with your parents to complete these forms and meet financial aid deadlines.
2) Update colleges on any change of status. Were you named an Intel Semifinalist this week? Did you win an academic award or receive all-state orchestra recognition? A quick email will allow you to share these updates. When first semester grades (or even second trimester, depending on your school calendar) are available, your counselor should be sharing them with the colleges.
3) Avoid having to share the bad news with colleges. The only way to do this is to avoid bad news. Don’t drop your AP classes for a collection of non-academic electives. Don’t blow off your first semester exams this month and confront a sub-par report card. Resist the temptation to skip class, play pranks or participate in any activity that could result in school or judicial disciplinary action. Pay attention to your online profile on social networking sites. I promise, this is not the update letter you want to write to your college choices.
Enjoy the “lasts” as they happen this year. It won’t be long before the “fat envelopes” and colorful web graphics welcome you to the class of 2017!
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.