Most early decision and early action applications are due by November 1, but many guidance counselors expect that you will show them proof of submission a week or two beforehand in order to allow them to do their parts. Remember, your guidance counselors have heavy caseloads, and college applications are not their only responsibility. Here are some things to make sure you do in order to submit your applications in a timely manner:
1. Fill in the answers to the questions of each college or university to which you are applying on Common App so that you will see what supplemental essays, resumes, portfolios, etc. are required by the individual schools.
2. Take note of the word or character limits for each essay or short answer question. If a college indicates that you have a limit of 500 words or 160 characters and spaces, be sure to take those limits seriously. There is no wiggle room for an answer that has to be copied and pasted or typed into a space. There is room, however, if you are given the opportunity to upload a file.
3. Take the time to make sure that you understand the prompt for each essay. If a university asks why you want to attend a specific program in a particular school, they do not want to read a couple of paragraphs about the pretty dorms or the delicious food in the dining halls.
4. Pay particular attention to the “Recommendations and FERPA” section for each school. Be sure to take reasonable advantage of the number of teacher evaluations that are permitted as well as the “Other Recommenders.” The teachers will submit through Naviance; the others must be invited directly through Common App.
5. You can send your application before your counselor, teachers or other recommenders submit their parts.
6. Be particularly careful when your college has a writing supplement. After you submit your Common App portion and the answers to the college’s questions, you will see a message to return to the supplement to submit it separately.
7. When you submit the application, be sure that you receive and keep track of your email confirmations. Often, colleges will send you a “What’s Next” message. You are expected to sign up with your user name and password so that you will be kept informed of further steps to take.
8. Some colleges will send questions or links to SSAR (Self-reported Student Academic Record) for you to fill out after you submit.
9. Don’t forget that if you are submitting SAT or ACT scores, it doesn’t happen automatically. Even if you self-report your scores, most colleges still expect to get official reports of your scores on or about the deadlines.
10. If you have overloaded yourself with too many early applications and you know that you simply can’t write all of those supplemental essays well and in a timely fashion, re-evaluate your list. Have a discussion with your counselor and your parents to prioritize. Change some of the early deadlines to regular or ED2.
11. If you see after you submit your application that there are minor errors or omissions and you need to make corrections, you can email admissions explaining the errors and attaching whatever information needs to be revised. Admissions officers have hearts and they know that this happens all the time. Just be respectful and brief.
12. Take a deep breath, review your list, and start working on the regular decision applications so that you will be prepared to send them in December.