Last year, a family reached out to me on the first Saturday in February. The mother and daughter were in deep distress. They had submitted an application with a February 1st deadline late in the evening of January 31st. There had been a glitch with the actual submission and it appeared that the essay had not been included. The admission office was not open on a Saturday and they were so upset that they could not resolve this problem. All I could do was tell them to call the school on Monday to determine if the file was complete or not. They had a stressful 48 hours while they waited to speak with admissions.
As I hung up with them, I reflected on the importance of submitting applications ahead of the deadline. Nothing is stressful when you have ample time. Anxiety and panic creep in when time starts to run out. Mistakes are made, judgement can be flawed and this leads to the exact situation where this family found themselves. Here are some tips to avoid this dilemma:
1. Make your own internal deadline at least 72 hours ahead of the school deadline. If you have a February 1st deadline, plan to submit your application by January 28th. This will allow flexibility if you come down with a stomach bug, a power outage or any other issue that arises.
2. Set a designated hour for the parent and child to complete this work together. Make sure you have eaten, have a quiet, uninterrupted space to work on this and a functioning credit card on hand. This part of the process is tedious and sometimes questions pop-up, that despite your best efforts, might require more writing.
3. When you finish, have a plan to celebrate this milestone. The physical application submission is no small feat. Schedule a trip to your favorite ice cream spot or some other way that you can acknowledge this important step.
4. Double-check that your transcript requests are en route from your high school.
5. If you are submitting ACT or SAT scores, send those after you complete the applications.
6. I suggest that you establish your internal deadline between Sunday and Thursday. This will give you the option to call the admissions office if you experience any sort of issue or have a question. For my students this year that have November 1st deadlines, I am suggesting that they submit their applications no later than Wednesday, October 28th. This will allow for unforeseen issues AND the ability to contact the admission office if necessary.
7. Establish and carefully monitor your portals. It is incumbent on the student to determine that their file is complete. If an application is still missing pieces after a week or so, an applicant needs to be proactive and take steps to ensure that the college has everything they need.
I felt terrible for the family that called me that morning last February. It all worked out in the end for this student but their weekend was ruined and it could have been avoided with a timely submission.