Regular decision deadlines are fast approaching as we enter December. College admissions are as competitive as they’ve ever been, so it’s crucial for students to make sure they’re submitting the best applications possible. Unfortunately, last-minute applications mistakes do happen. It takes focus, organization and sometimes painstaking editing to avoid them.
The key to success is to manage your time when completing your remaining college applications. As you enter the final stretch of the college application process, make sure you leave yourself time to review each of your applications and make sure you’re not making any mistakes. Ultimately, if you’re able to submit your application early, you’ll have time to contact the college’s office of admissions to confirm that materials have been received by the deadline. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you to manage your application requirements in the upcoming weeks and to spend your time most effectively during this final push.
Letters of recommendation and transcripts
Make sure everything you need from your high school is prepared and ready to be sent to your schools. Get in touch with your counselor to confirm your GPA and class rank. If you have not yet asked your teachers to write your letters of recommendation, now is the time to do so. Teachers can enhance your application by giving their perspective on who you are as a person and on your abilities inside and outside of the classroom. There are a lot of boxes to check when applying to colleges. Make sure to follow up on your letters of recommendation to ensure they’ve been sent to your schools and that each college has received them. This can be done over the phone or by email. Once you’ve submitted your application, confirm with each school they’ve received your application. This can be accomplished by making a phone call to the universities’ admissions offices and checking your application portal.
Read your essays out loud
Ideally, this was part of your editing process all along, but it’s a great idea to give your essays one final read-over to check for style and clarity. Oftentimes, we can pick up on awkward phrases or clunky transitions while reading an essay out loud that we would miss during a routine perusal of our work. For this to have maximum impact, be sure to read slowly and clearly, as if you were actually presenting to an audience.
Review any “re-purposed” essays.
When applying to 15+ colleges, students are bound to encounter supplemental essay prompts in different schools’ applications. While it’s less-work to copy-paste an old essay, especially when under a time crunch, this practice is not advised. Firstly, repurposed essays often give the impression that the college you’re applying to is not your first-choice school. We advise students to take the time to address every prompt from scratch. Secondly, repurposing essays sets students up for confusion, uncertain if they’ve removed details like school specific courses and program names from previous essays. You don’t want to be the student who submits an essay to one college with the name of another college in the essay.
Ask for help
We encourage our students to own their college application process. While they should be in charge of the schools they are applying to, that doesn’t mean it’s not OK to ask for help when they need it.
Don’t be afraid to schedule a meeting with a college counselor, meet with a parent or ask a trusted friend for support.
College counselors are there to advise you through the college application process so keep them abreast of your progress and don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out for help.
Ask a trusted friend or parent to double-check that your responses to essay questions fully address all the components of each prompt. This is such a fundamental task that it can get lost in the shuffle of stylistic revisions and frequent trips to the thesaurus, but it’s absolutely critical. If your responses veer off-track at any point, chances are, they’ll be able to tell.
Triple-check all formatting
The Common App is not as user-friendly as a word processor. You’ll need to triple-check that paragraphs are indented properly, quotation marks are used when needed (the website won’t allow you to underline or bold text), etc. It is worth printing out your application in its entirety so that you can see how admissions officers will actually view it.
Confirm school names
Make sure that you don’t write about how Columbia University is the perfect fit for you in your “Why Duke?” essay. Enough said.
Sit back and relax
Be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far. Don’t be afraid to even give yourself a little bit of a break. You’ll be able to return to your other applications with renewed vigor and purpose.