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Behind on Your College Apps? Here’s How to Catch Up

Now that the early application round has closed, the window to craft thorough, compelling, and thoughtful regular decision applications is quickly closing. Many Regular Decision deadlines aren’t until January 1, so if you’re just now starting on your admissions journey, or need some help getting back on track, 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 balanced college list (or what you have so far), 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, you need to be mindful of their time.

Fill Out the Common Application

If you don’t have one already, make a Common Application account. 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 aim to complete these sections 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. If you’re applying to a college that uses its own separate application, create an account on their platform, too.

Approach Teachers for Letters of Recommendation Now

Chances are many of your teachers 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, 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 write your letter.

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. Your list needs to be 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 Application 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 organize 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 and check them off your list as you confirm that the colleges have received them.

Create a Timeline for Writing and Editing Essays

This is easily the most time-consuming part of the college 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 essay 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 Ask 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, finalizing your balanced college list, and more in order to ensure that you’re able to submit the best application possible by the regular decision 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 options for current high school seniors to help guide them through the remainder of the college admissions process. Contact us today for more information.

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