The College Search: Submitting Applications

It's important to stay organized and meet deadlines. David Murphy has some tips.

May 12, 2010 7:30:02 AM PDT
Application deadlines are firm. If you're late, you'll have to go crawling on your hands and knees, begging for an exception, which isn't always granted.

So keeping track of deadlines is of paramount importance, especially since there are plenty of ways you can be tripped up. For example, while most colleges and universities cut-off accepting applications around January 1 for Regular Decision (See: Types of Applications), some schools like Penn State have deadlines earlier in the fall which can sneak up on you. Certain university Honors Colleges may also have different deadlines than the Main Campus. Deadlines for various merit scholarships can also come early. And of course, if you're applying Early Action or Early Decision, your deadline will also come up sooner. It's vital to check each school's website carefully and make sure you're square on all the important dates.

Stay organized

To keep things straight, we kept a list of the schools to which our son was applying taped to a cabinet in the kitchen, with all the deadlines clearly listed. This helped on two fronts. First, the list was a standing reminder to our son of how much (or little) time he had left to get the mounds of preparation work completed. Second, it was a nice reference for my wife and me, as it was easy to become confused while digesting all the information from the different schools.

On the surface, you wouldn't think meeting these deadlines would be all that hard. What usually trips up students and parents is the variety of material that must be prepared and gathered to complete the applications. It's easy to forget things, especially since different colleges often have very different requirements. That's why I recommend getting as much finished as soon as possible. Letters of Recommendation from teachers should be requested very early in senior year. Not only is it polite, but it helps to get your request in ahead of others, especially if it's a popular teacher. The Common Application should be filled out early in the semester, too, along with its related essay. That way, you can approach your high school guidance counselor for proof-reading and suggestions before they're completely swamped with this sort of work. Additionally, some colleges may ask that peers or mentors fill out forms, or submit letters. Again, the sooner you can get these requests in, the better.

Getting these items out of the way allows more time for all the supplemental essays and questionnaires some schools may require, and reduces the chance of overlooking any details.

Not all materials are due at the same time. Teacher recommendations, certain grade reports supplied by a student's high school, as well as late SAT/ACT scores can and in some cases, must be delayed. But the basic applications and supplemts, along with the high school resume, are usually due all at once.

Registering helps

Here's some good news. Once you begin submitting materials, most college websites will allow you to register as a prospective student. You should do this, because a registered student gets access to a special portal where he or she can track the status of their application. For example, if a teacher or peer hasn't gotten around to submitting his or her letter of recommendation, you'll see that on the website. Or, if during all the confusion, you've forgotten to submit a supplement to a given school, or if some of the submitted material is incomplete, you'll see that, too. More importantly, when everything is submitted correctly, the website will confirm that your application is complete and has been accepted, and you can comfortably put that given school out of your mind, knowing that everything is in order.

MORE COLLEGE SEARCH ARTICLES: Submitting Applications, When Will I Know If I'm In?, Wait List, When Must I Decide?, What If I Have Trouble Deciding?, Merit Aid, Need-Based Aid, Federal Need-Based Aid, Can I Ask For More Aid?, 529 Savings Accounts, Myths About The Cost, What Is Upromise?, The Best Way To Pay, College Troubles, College Depression, NCAA Athletics, Athletic Scholarships, The College Search Preface

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