While many seniors have completed their college applications, there are still lots of procrastinators out there who will wait until 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31 to hit the submit button.
Here is a final checklist for seniors who may think they’re done:
• Finish your first semester strong. Don’t get complacent, even if you’ve already been accepted. Read your acceptance letters carefully, because colleges are quite clear that your acceptance is contingent on consistent performance. Don’t let yourself be the cautionary tale for juniors by having your offer rescinded. Colleges will request a midyear report and an end-of-year final transcript.
• Check your application status – colleges will generally inform you via email if some item in your application folder is missing. Be certain to read all emails from your colleges. Once they have notified you that your application is incomplete, it is your responsibility to rectify the situation. This might mean that your letter(s) of recommendation, test scores or transcripts have not arrived.
• Make sure your name is consistent on all college-related documents. One of my students this year was surprised when a college said it had not received her test scores, though they’d been sent months earlier.
After some investigation it was determined that she had used her middle name on her college application but did not use it when she signed up for testing. Consequently, while the test scores were sent to the college, they were never linked to her application due to the inconsistency with the names. She had applied Early Action and was deferred due to an incomplete application folder.
• Thank your teachers, recommenders and school guidance staff. They have a lot on their plates and their roles are often underappreciated. Send a personal note, and you are sure to stand out.
• Start researching merit-based and need-based scholarship opportunities. Most high schools provide links to scholarships on their websites. Check out the honors college programs and institutional scholarships deadlines at each of the colleges where you’re applying. Those will be the most generous and offer you the best return on investment.
• Re-evaluate your list. Now, with a little distance and hopefully a little less anxiety, review each of the colleges where you’ve applied and prepare a written critique: “What I like best …” and “What I like least …” These lists will be very helpful when you find yourself accepted at multiple colleges and need to make a final decision.
• Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Create your Plan B. In the unlikely situation that the worst-case scenario occurs, you’ll need to decide if you’ll attend community college, work or create your own gap-year program.
Take comfort in knowing that this will all be over in less than 4½ months. May 1 is National Decision Day, when students need to inform colleges of their final decisions. It will be here before you know it.
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.