When I flipped the calendar to October this past weekend, I had a moment of panic that was likely shared with many high school seniors across the country. That’s right, rolling application cycles are underway, and the first round of Early Action and Early Decision deadlines is less than a month away!
Don’t panic, but it is time to allot serious time to your college applications. The Common Application can be fairly straightforward, but leaving any portion until the last minute will likely result in a more rushed effort — and a sloppy result. Here are a few tips for managing your applications over the next few weeks.
- Allow yourself time to write. Thoughtful, well-crafted essays don’t appear on October 30th, they evolve through drafts and careful revision. For a college that doesn’t require a supplemental essay, those 500 words in the personal statement are your sole opportunity to breathe life and personality into an electronic file. I’ve seen too many students submit 500 words that share little information with the reader.
- Think about your application from an outsider’s perspective. Is all of your data clear? Have you explained what ABCD means and your role in the ABCD organization in the extracurricular section? Have you omitted any important information? Take the extra minute to locate your counselor’s contact information and confirm your GPA and class rank.
- Proofread. Yes, you’ve heard it before, anytime you enter text directly, it is easy to skip the last step. Consider writing even your short answers in a word processing program. Then edit them and your personal statement yourself or ask a parent or teacher to read over your writing for you. Don’t forget to preview your final application before submission to ensure that everything looks the way you expect.
- Uploading and submitting takes time. Last year, I worked with a student who was finishing his last application at the last possible minute. Servers slow down when lots of students are trying to submit work. Browsers crash. If you use a Mac, the Common Application seems to work better with Firefox than Safari. Technical glitches happen. Sometimes, colleges will cut you some slack. Sometimes they won’t. Don’t depend on it. Finish early.
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as an 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 provide you with college admissions consulting as you apply to college.