The Common Application went live Aug. 1, and some very eager students have already submitted their applications.
Not so fast. Early may not be better. There is applying before the deadline and then there is the crazed family, most typically a parent, who is intent on submitting all the college applications in August.
While students can make changes once applications are submitted, it can be anxiety-provoking and time-consuming. It is far better to complete the applications, wait a bit and let the whole process marinate just a little. Ideally, students have worked on their essay(s) over the summer. Their best bet would be to finalize them, put them away for a few weeks, then reread them and perhaps make a final edit.
College admissions officers don’t begin their “reading period” until all the information in an applicant’s folder is complete; that means the updated high school transcript, most recent test scores and recommendations. No student will be penalized for submitting an application in mid-September or early October, as long as it is prior to the deadline.
What to do now:
• Work on the activities list. There are strict character counts on most applications (150 on the Common Application). Use your characters carefully. Watch your wording and describe your activities as specifically as possible. Check each application to see if you can download your resume.
• Set up accounts at all of the colleges where you plan to apply. Create a separate computer document where you list the college deadline, your user name and password for each school.
• Begin the data input. Start with the easy stuff – address, family, education history and testing.
• Ask for help. The recently released and newly overhauled Common Application has done a good job of anticipating your questions. There is a maroon circle with a yellow question mark on every page with answers to the most commonly asked questions. Additionally, you can submit a help ticket to their technological support team and they will respond very quickly.
What to do later:
• After you’ve written your essay, proof it, share it with others you believe will provide insightful comments and edit as you see fit, always making sure the essay still represents your words and is in your voice.
• Print preview. Before submitting your application, be sure to print a preview and proof each page carefully.
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.collegeadmissions strategies.com.