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Last-Minute Tips for Early Decision Applications

Late October and early November deadlines for early decision and early action applications are just around the corner, so it’s crunch time for students putting the finishing touches on their college applications.

Applying early decision or early action can add an extra layer of stress to the college admissions process as students have a shorter window to complete their applications. Students can also feel added pressure knowing this might be their only shot at getting into their top-choice college. Early decision and early action applicant pools tend to be more competitive than the regular decision pool, so it’s important for applications to be in tip-top shape.

Before hitting “submit,” there are some extra steps students should take to make sure they’re really ready to apply early.

Proofread, proofread, proofread!
We can’t stress it enough – proofreading is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure you’re submitting the best application possible. While a spelling error won’t necessarily kill your chances of admission, an essay filled with them can bring your overall application quality down. Proofreading is also a good opportunity to catch missing or incorrect information. Maybe instead of noting you spend 12 hours per week on an activity you accidentally put just “1.” Careless errors can really hurt your application if they misrepresent important information. Read through your application a few times once it’s completed and then ask a parent or counselor to check behind you. It can also be helpful to read your essay out loud, as it forces you to slow down and better process the language and syntax. It’s a good way to catch grammatical errors or typos.

Make sure all materials are in order.
It’s not just the application itself you need to submit. Be sure to check in with your school and the admissions office to make sure your transcripts, test scores, and other materials have been sent and received. If you’re waiting on a recommendation letter, politely follow up with your recommender to make sure it’s submitted on time. Don’t wait until the day before to make sure everything is in order – by then it might be too late.

Make sure your supplements are tailored.
If you’re applying early decision or early action to a college, it’s safe to assume you’ve done your research and know exactly why you want to attend that school – after all, it’s presumably your first-choice college. However, no matter how much students know about a school, they can often neglect to specify what makes that college so special to them in their supplements. Colleges like Columbia, Brown, and others ask students directly why they want to attend that college. It’s important to have tailored essays that mention specifics about the school, your interests, and how you plan to pursue them at that institution. This is your chance to really demonstrate your interest – don’t squander it.

Don’t wait until the last minute to hit “submit.”
It’s not unheard of for students to wait until 11:59 p.m. on the deadline day to submit their applications. Waiting until zero hour to hit the “submit” button, however, is not a great idea. There have been instances in the past of applications encountering technical problems that can keep students from submitting on time. There’s also the chance that other things, like power outages, Internet problems, or other factors outside students’ control, could keep them from getting their application in before the deadline. While many admissions offices can accommodate application mishaps, this can create undue stress for students and parents – and could dash admission hopes if a college can’t accommodate an extension. Aim to complete your application a few days before the deadline, allowing ample time for review and proofreading, and submit it early. With a few days’ buffer, students can have plenty of time to troubleshoot problems.

If you’re having doubt, talk to your college counselor.
Applying to college early is a big commitment, as early decision applications are binding should you be accepted. If you’re getting cold feet about your early decision college, or if you’re not sure that your application is ready for the early deadline, talk to your college counselor about your options. Sometimes students just need reassurance that they’re ready, while other times a students’ gut feelings can be right – maybe their application isn’t in early shape. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you encounter some roadblocks while finishing up your early applications.

Continue to work on your regular decision applications.
After the rush to the early decision finish line, it’s tempting for students to take a break from college applications and anxiously await their early admission announcements. Especially if they’re confident about their chances of early admission, some students might think completing other applications is a waste of time. It’s important to remember that, while admit rates for early applications tend to be higher, there are no guarantees in college admissions. You might not get into your early college, and if you haven’t worked on your other applications, you’ll be at a huge disadvantage going into the regular decision deadlines. Take a day or two breather after submitting your early applications, then get right back to working on your regular decision applications and essays.

Applying early decision or early action can be a stressful process, but with proper planning and guidance, you can submit a great application that can really enhance your chances of getting into your first-choice college.

Still need some help finishing up your early applications? We have limited availability for short-term programs to help seniors get their applications in shape before early deadlines. Contact us today for more information.

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