Deal with the Approaching Deadline

June 04, 2008

It’s the last day of school before a weeklong Thanksgiving break, and I’m frantically running around school delivering recommendation packets to my teachers and counselor. (The packets include teacher evaluation sheets from different schools and a “brag sheet” detailing everything I’ve done in high school.) I get a packet to my counselor, and another to my junior year English teacher. I head over to my junior year history teacher’s classroom, only to find to my horror that he is not here today, which means I won’t be able to get it to him in time for the deadline I’m trying to meet. I thought I had been really organized with the recommendation stuff, but I did not even consider this contingency.

So far in college season, I’ve learned that planning is more than half the battle if you want to have as little stress as possible. And when I say planning, I don’t mean just thinking ahead. You can’t just write down the deadlines in a notebook somewhere and call that “planning”, you have to be a master of your schedule. It’s like walking eight dogs at once; if you don’t have total control at all times, one of them is going to slip away and you probably won’t be able to run and get it back. Keeping everything under control is the name of the game, but the nature of college applications also requires that you be flexible.

I walk around in a daze, trying to think of a solution. I run into my friend Julia, who has been invaluable in keeping me on track with college stuff, and she suggests that I give it to one of my teachers from this year. I didn’t even know that colleges accept recommendations from senior year teachers, but apparently this is true. I hesitate – I hate deviating from my carefully laid plans – but I have no choice. I cross out the name of last year’s history teacher and give the packet to this year’s government teacher. He seems pleased that I’ve asked him to write a recommendation for me, and I leave feeling good about the way things turned out.

University of California applications are due no later than November 30th. Many private colleges have application deadlines around January 1st, but a couple of the schools I’m applying to have earlier deadlines if you want to be considered for special scholarships (and I’ll take all the money I can get). Because the deadlines are all over the place and would be too hard to keep track of, my goal is to get all of my applications in by the UC deadline so that I can have a pleasant, college-free December. Most teachers and counselors want some time to complete their recommendations, and some request ten days, so I had to get the packets out before we went on break.

I mentioned in a past column that it’s good to have people to talk to who are going through the same things you are. From an emotional standpoint I already knew this to be true, but now I am realizing that it may be even more applicable from a planning standpoint. Julia is applying to several of the same schools I am, and we have given each other essay and application support. Last week she reminded me of an important scholarship deadline that I had completely forgotten about, and she’s been guiding me as far as what to do with all the recommendation forms. It’s been really helpful to have someone who you can bounce ideas off of and who can clear up any questions you have.

Having control of all the dates and deadlines in the college process is not a minor detail. It takes a lot of work to keep track of what’s going on, and it requires flexibility when things don’t go exactly as planned. I’ve had to deal with a couple bumps in the road, but I’ve managed to get past them without too much fanfare. The next part of my plan is to use the Thanksgiving week to write all my essays and short answers, and then collect the recommendations and send transcripts and scores when I get back. With an outline of my time set, all I can do now is hope for the best and make it happen!

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