6 Tips to Complete a College Application

If you can’t finish college applications before the Jan. 1 deadline, remember there are plenty of schools with delayed deadlines after then.
Students completing applications after New Year’s Day can use the following tips from students who have been in this situation, and advice from counselors to finish strong.

Step 1

Don’t waste time applying to schools you probably won’t go to:
“If it’s not realistic that you would end up at that school, you shouldn’t spend your entire New Year’s trying to cram in all of those applications,” says Kat Pickhardt, now a 19-year-old sophomore at Ithaca College in New York. She spent New Year’s a couple years ago finishing college applications.
Applying to college shouldn’t be a random exercise. It can be a waste of effort and money to do that and end up with options you don’t want.

Step 2

Make a list of everything you have left to do
– and complete each task one at a time: Those who defer getting it done can be overwhelmed. Counselors recommend students divide the big tasks they have left to do into manageable pieces.
“You are going to be more likely to complete them,” Atkin said.
Applicants should proofread their application and double, even triple, check everything – including that the applicant’s name and email address are consistent, along with correct school names – before they hit submit.

Step 3

Crank out an essay:
“The first thing is to just vomit 500 words onto a page,” says Atkin. “Tell a story about yourself that you want to tell. Don’t worry about what the prompt is.”

Students should edit the essay, then tweak what they have written to fit one of the essay prompts available on the applications.
Once students are finished they should have one adult – students don’t want too many hands on the essay – look it over for grammar and clarity.
Note: that adult shouldn’t be a parent since parents tend to want to rewrite essays. Students could consider a parent they babysit for, neighbor or uncle if they’re in a bind on New Year’s Eve.

Step 4

Avoid submitting applications right at the deadline:
With thousands of other students online submitting college applications at the same time, websites can crash and servers can go down.
While students usually have until 11:59 p.m. in their time zone to submit college applications with Jan. 1 deadlines, it is recommended students try to get applications submitted earlier to avoid technical glitches.

Step 5

Find out if deadlines have wiggle room: Students will probably have to wait until after winter break to send out anything that requires the help of school officials – like transcripts and letters of recommendation – if they don’t already have these documents.
But students can submit the application; fill out their Naviance profile, which schools use to manage paperwork electronically; and send emails to teachers asking for a letter of recommendations.
Some schools, particularly highly competitive schools, will probably not accept admissions materials late, but others are more flexible. Students can go to each school’s website to see how rigid they are with deadlines.
Schools that evaluate applicants more holistically, for instance, may give applicants more wiggle room, but in most instances, large flagship state universities are not flexible.

Step 6

Remember there are many colleges with admissions deadlines after Jan. 1:
If students can’t make the New Year’s deadline, their life is not over. There are many, many schools that are on what’s called rolling admission and they will accept applications as late as May.
Try not to wait until the night before an application is due to finish it.

(Thanks to Jodi Rosenshein Atkin, an independent college admissions counselor, Rochester, New York and Shondra Carpenter, counselor, Cherokee Trail High School, Colorado)

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