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Tips for Students Who Are Behind on Their College Applications

Senior year is flying by, and for students who have yet to start on their college applications, the window to craft thorough, compelling, and thoughtful applications is quickly closing. Many regular decision deadlines aren’t until January 1, so while students starting now are behind those who began their applications in the summer, there’s still time to have a successful admissions season.

If you’re just now starting on your admissions journey, here’s what you need to do now in order to catch up and be ready to submit great applications by the regular decision deadlines.

Meet with your college counselor ASAP.
Make an appointment as soon as possible with your college counselor to go over your college choices, what you need to do now to get on track, and collaborate on a plan of action. Your counselor can help you choose which teachers to approach for recommendations, provide feedback on your essay ideas, and more. Remember, this is a crazy time of year for counselors, so while you should feel free to ask for any help you might need, be sure to be mindful of their time.

Fill out your Common Application.
If you don’t have one already, make a Common Application account. If you’re applying to a college that uses its own separate application, create an account on their platform, too. This is a critical first step, as everything from here on out will be facilitated through your Common Application account. Get the basic forms out of the way – name, address, parent information, and so on. Then, work on filling out your activity list. This can be the most tedious part of the application, so work to get it done before you dive into your essays. That way you’ll have more energy to devote to writing and revising essays and won’t be scrambling to complete the other parts of the application at the zero hour.

Finalize your balanced college list.
If you got a late start, you might not have the luxury of visiting all the colleges on your list before it’s time to submit applications. Finalize your list based on your research, suggestions from your counselor, and any college visits or fairs you may have attended. Since time is short, plan to visit the colleges you haven’t had a chance to see after acceptances come in so you can make an informed decision about where to attend. Make sure your list is balanced, with an even selection of target, reach, and likely colleges. This will ensure that you’re applying smart and will have a wide range of colleges to choose from once decisions come in.

Make a checklist of all required app materials.
You’ve already finalized your college list, started filling out your application, and begun brainstorming essays – what’s next? Different colleges often have different application requirements, so it’s important to make sure you have everything you need for each individual school. Look up the application requirements for each college and make a list of what materials you need. Make note of the materials you need to request from other places, like your transcript, SAT or ACT test scores, AP exam scores, recommendations, and more. Immediately put in a request for those materials to be sent to the schools you’re applying to, checking them off your list as you confirm that the colleges have received them.

Approach teachers for letters of recommendation now.
Chances are many instructors have already had dozens of requests for recommendation letters from students who are already working on their applications. Some teachers may not have the time to write additional letters, and sometimes teachers may only be allowed to write a certain number of recommendations. After identifying the teachers who are best suited to write recommendations for you, immediately approach them and ask if they’re available to write a letter for you. If so, go ahead and assign them as a recommender on your Common Application. If not, choose another instructor. It’s important to get this process going as soon as possible as it may take them a while to get to your letter.

Create a timeline for writing and editing essays.
This is easily the most time-consuming part of the actual application process – which is why it’s so important for students to get started as soon as possible. For students who have gotten a late start, it’s important to buckle down and begin writing now. It may seem overwhelming, which is why it’s helpful to create a writing schedule, to help you break up the writing into manageable chunks and also allow for plenty of time for editing and feedback.

Don’t rush!
With a little less than two months to get everything together, it’s easy to feel like you need to rush through the process. While your timeline is abbreviated, there’s still plenty of time to do proper research, communicate with admissions offices, and put together thoughtful, authentic applications that showcase your best self and demonstrate your interest in your top colleges. It’s better to submit a few, very well-done applications than many that you haphazardly rushed through just to make sure you got them in.

Know when to turn to professionals for help.
Getting a late start on your college applications can cause a lot of stress and leaves little time for students to get the proper help they may need. If you’re overwhelmed and need some additional support, don’t be afraid to reach out to your college counselor or an independent consultant. Educational consultants like the ones at IvyWise can help guide you through the process no matter how much time you have left. Our counselors will help with essay editing, school selection, and more in order to make sure you’re able to submit the best application possible by the regular deadlines.

While starting the college application process in November is not ideal, there’s still time to maximize your college options. Stay on track with your application plan and timeline, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it!

At IvyWise we have a number of counseling options for current high school seniors. Contact us today for more information.

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