College Admissions

Archive for August, 2008

Should You Submit Your Application Early?

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Last year, one of my students submitted her application to the University of Colorado at Boulder early and was accepted by the end of September. Since Boulder was her first choice, this student had a stress-free senior year. But is applying early always a good idea?

It depends on the school. Rolling admission, which is more common at public universities, like University of Arizona, means your application will be reviewed as soon as it’s complete, and you could have a decision in 4-8 weeks. At some schools, like the University of Michigan, if there are a lot of early applications from strong students, those who apply later may be at a competitive disadvantage. Applying earlier can also mean priority consideration for scholarships, as well as housing, at some schools.

Students who apply in September will no longer get such a fast decision from Boulder, which has a new early notification plan. If you submit an application by December 15 you’ll have a decision sometime between December 16 and February 15. Apply by the regular deadline of February 15 and you will be notified by April 1.

Public schools in California have narrow application windows. The University of California accepts applications only from November 1-30 and most campuses release their decisions in March. There’s no advantage to submitting your application Nov. 1, but you don’t want to wait till the end of the month because it becomes very stressful, and when you’re rushed, it’s easy to make mistakes. The Cal State University application period is October 1 – November 30, and depending on the campus, decisions typically are released from January through March.

Choosing a Great “Safety” School

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Everyone knows you need to include a “safety” school on your list of colleges, but if you really don’t like that school and would never want to go there, what’s the point? Make sure you can see yourself having a good experience at every college on your list, and your application process will be much less stressful and more satisfying.

If you think about the characteristics you want in a school, you can find several colleges with those characteristics. For example, if you want a medium to large university located in a city but with a real campus, huge selection of majors, strong school spirit, excellent access to internships, great study abroad programs, active Greek life, alumni who support the school and love to hire graduates – you might think of USC. Since USC is a tough admit even with a strong academic record, you need to add another school to your list. You could find all of these characteristics at SMU, which is not as difficult to get into and yet can provide a very similar college experience.

And it’s not just about being admitted. You might get into two or more schools, but if one awards you a scholarship, that school could become your first choice. Since you feel good about all the colleges you applied to, making your final choice based on cost won’t feel like a sacrifice.

Getting Organized Can Make College Applications Less Stressful

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Students who are starting the college application process can easily feel overwhelmed. It’s a stressful time for the whole family, and you don’t want college admission to become the only topic of conversation in the house. That just adds to the tension. Instead, try scheduling a weekly time to talk about college applications. Knowing that Sunday at 7:00 is college time can help students stay on track while reassuring their parents that they will have regular updates.

Another way to reduce stress is to help your child get organized. Students should make a chart with each school’s application requirements (transcript, test scores, recommendation letters, essays, etc) and deadlines. Scheduling one or two tasks a week will make the workload more manageable. Students can check off each requirement once they’ve completed it. This kind of chart will help them see the big picture and keep track of what they still need to do. It also helps them feel more in control of this often daunting process, and that makes things less stressful for everyone

Pay Attention to the Whole College Application

Saturday, August 9th, 2008

Summer will be over in just a few weeks, and seniors who want to reduce the stress of college applications are working on their applications now. This is a great time to get those major essays written, but be sure to pay close attention to the entire application.

Several admissions directors have told me they read the “Why do you want to attend our school?” short essays very carefully. One admissions officer said that students don’t usually get help on these questions like they do on the longer essays, so he believes he gets a writing sample that is truly the student’s work.

Another reason to spend time on this question is that some colleges try to gauge how serious a student is about attending the school. Knowing what is distinctive about the college and being able to say why it is a good match for you tells admissions officers that you’re motivated enough to do some research and write a thoughtful answer to the question.

There’s another, perhaps more important reason to think carefully about this question. It helps you clarify your reasons for choosing a certain school, and if you can’t come up with anything to say, perhaps you shouldn’t be applying to that school. Being able to articulate what you want and how you would fit into a college community not only improves your chances of admission, it gives you a better chance of making a good college match, and that’s real success.