I recently met with a rising senior to continue work on their Common Application. We started in early July and we have shoehorned work sessions into this student’s schedule, which is not an easy feat. Between paid work, academic work, volunteer work, athletics and test prep classes, trying to find an hour with this kid is not easy. But I am tenacious. If my texts and emails go unacknowledged, I have been known to show up at a client’s place of work, with a smile on my face, to check in and see where we stand on getting together. There are days that I feel like I am The College Stalker. Teenagers have packed schedules, but I am persistent and the story of the student that I mentioned above illustrates why I push so hard.
We were wrapping up our meeting and discussing what needed to be accomplished before our next appointment. I took stock of where we were with the Common App and I said, “Do you realize that in about one week, your Common Application will be complete?” This student stopped what they were doing and looked up at me. A smile began to radiate across their face, like the sun coming over the horizon. They said, “Really?” I said, “Yes, really, you will be done by August 1st. This will give you the rest of the summer to work on supplemental essays. You can have ALL of your applications drafted and ready to go before you return for your senior year.” And the smile continued as this student saw an end on the horizon. All of our hard work, chipping away at the various components of the Common App, were bearing fruit. They could see a final product starting to take shape, with a finish line in sight.
The common theme between my last two pieces is that there are some things that are within the student’s control in the college admissions process. In ¿A Spanish Lesson for College Admissions? I talk about building a list that you love and I continue that thought with A Path to Peace in College Admissions, Part 1. There are myriad factors in the admissions journey that are beyond our sway but these two entries focus on actions that put applicants in the driver’s seat. What is another way to feel autonomy as you apply to colleges? Get your Common Application done before you return to school in September! I am not kidding. The grades from senior year are the last academic work a college is going to see and the classes are the most challenging courses that high schools offer. When a student returns for senior year with their applications ready to submit, they have cleared the decks to focus on the highest academic achievement possible.
Carolyn Pippen wrote a piece called “Lessons From a Departing Admissions Counselor” when she left Vanderbilt University a few years ago. One of the points that she makes is, “The calmest and most organized students fare the best in this process”. A surefire way to get ahead of this juggernaut and feel “calm and organized” is to walk in Day #1 of your senior year with your applications complete.
If you are procrastinating your college applications, get started with a link to the Common App writing prompts here. Enjoy!