It’s November, and we are starting down the home stretch of the college application season. We are entering the regular admission cycle. That’s right, final deadlines are looming. If you didn’t apply Early Action or Early Decision, your deadlines will vary somewhat over the next few months. Although your first instinct might be to panic, it’s important to keep a level head. You are not the only one in this position; many high school seniors across the country are in the same situation!
The key to success is to focus your time on your college applications. It is important to put your best effort forward now, because your work will determine which colleges you will have the opportunity to select from in the spring. The Common Application can be fairly straightforward, but leaving any portion until the last minute will result in a more rushed effort – and likely a sloppy result. Here are a few tips to help you manage your applications in the upcoming weeks.
- Allow yourself time to write.
Regardless of which application you are completing, thoughtful, well-crafted essays evolve through multiple drafts and careful revisions. For a college that doesn’t require a supplemental essay, the 650 words of the personal statement are your sole opportunity to breathe life and personality into your electronic file. This is your chance to convey who you are and what is important to you. Don’t miss this opportunity! If you are stumped by how to begin, take a look at my blog post with Tips for Answering the Common Application Essay Prompts.
- Think about your application from an outsider’s perspective.
Is all your information clear? Which aspects of your life experience and aspirations have you communicated? Is anything significant missing? Have you explained what ABCD means and your role in the ABCD organization in the extracurricular section? Keep the following in mind: you are limited to ten entries with the following character limits (including spaces!):
- 50 characters per position/leadership description
- 100 characters per organization name
- 150 characters per activity/role description
Use the position/leadership area to include a brief description of your activity and the organization name area to provide details about the goals of the organization so you will have more space available to describe what you did in the activity/role description section. With each entry, consider how you can demonstrate meaningful impact. You can use standard abbreviations to save some characters. Double-check to make sure you haven’t omitted any important information. And remember to list your most impressive activities toward the top. If you feel the space provided was inadequate to communicate your involvement in a particular activity, consider using the Additional Information section to elaborate, but keep your explanation succinct (this is not the place for another essay).
- Request letters of recommendation.
Take the extra minute to locate your counselor’s contact information and confirm your GPA and class rank. Make sure everything from your high school is in order. Your counselor and teachers can add value to your application by providing their perspective on your performance and abilities. If you have not already done so, now is the time to ask these individuals for letters of recommendation. Consider sending them a short note the week before your deadlines, as a gentle reminder about submitting your letter on time, and remember to write them thank-notes once they have submitted your letters.
- Proofread your entire application.
Don’t skip this step! Anytime you enter text directly online, it leaves room for mistakes. Consider writing even your short answers in a word processing program. Then, be sure to edit them and your personal statement yourself, or ask a parent or teacher to read over your writing for you. Next, copy and paste the text into the appropriate fields. Finally, preview and review your final application before submission to ensure that everything looks the way you expect.
- Review your school choices and score submission requirements.
Although many schools are test optional, if you decide to submit your SAT/ACT scores, review the list of schools you plan to apply to and compare your numbers with the Freshman Profile information for each school. Make sure you have a balanced list of school options:
- Reach – Your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are slightly below the average range for students admitted to the school last year.
- Good chances – Your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are comparable to the average range for students admitted to the school last year.
- Likely to be admitted – Your GPA and SAT/ACT scores are above the average range for students admitted to the school last year.
Check each school’s admissions website to see whether the school accepts self-reported scores or requires that all scores be sent directly from the testing organization. Although these numbers make up only a portion of your overall application, they are a starting point for adcom members in their evaluation of your candidacy. Other factors taken into consideration might include demonstrated leadership, unusual circumstances (COVID related or otherwise), extracurricular involvement, demographic information, alumni ties (to a lesser extent today than in the past), and outstanding athletic/musical/academic talent.
- Don’t wait until the last possible minute.
Uploading and submitting takes time. Some schools might ask you to complete additional Self-Reported Academic Record (SRAR) forms that will take extra time both to access (you will sometimes need to wait a day or so before you receive the link to the form) and to complete (about an hour). Unexpected setbacks could occur in your personal life. Servers slow down when lots of students are trying to submit work. Browsers crash. Technical glitches happen. Sometimes, colleges will cut you some slack, but sometimes they won’t, so don’t depend on it. Your stress level will be high enough without these extra challenges. Finish early.
Need help meeting the deadlines? It’s not too late to apply to your dream program. Check out our Common Application Package for expert guidance and advice. Our professional admissions consultants know just what it takes to create an outstanding application that will get you accepted!
Marie Todd has been involved in college admissions for more than 20 years. Marie has both counseled applicants to top colleges and evaluated more than 5,000 applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology; School of Nursing; and Taubman College of Architecture. Want Marie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch.