August: On the Road, Again
With summer winding down and the start of senior year looming, applicants may feel that these final weeks of sunshine would be best spent hibernating before school arrives.
While every student should make the most of this liberated span of time, the end of the summer is a wonderful opportunity for college visits.
By the end of August, most schools (excluding those with a trimester schedule) will have students on campus, offering an opportunity to interact with current students. Current students can offer honest insight into the nature of the student body and rigor of classes.
Many schools, especially smaller colleges, will consider applicants who have visited the school more seriously than applicants who never took the time to see the school in person. Visiting a school displays interest and commitment.
Thus, this is the time to visit any colleges that may be Early Action or Early Decision options to make sure that these trips are accomplished before the deadline.
After these decisions are returned sometime in December, students will be able to visit their second-choice or safety schools with a better perspective on their chances and a better idea of what elements of the school they would like to consider.
Obviously, touring schools in the heat with your parents can sometimes seem more like a chore than a vacation.
However, visiting schools in exciting locations like New York or Nashville may make the trip feel more like a fun getaway than a stressful consideration of universities.
September/October: In The Swing of Things
As you adapt to your new teachers and classes, the fall is a time for decisions and last-minute considerations.
October is the last time to sit for the SAT and ACT before the Early Action deadlines, and many students choose to take these exams for a final improvement on their scores, which may cushion applications.
Also, November 1 is the deadline for Early Action, so these months are an important time to crack down on the Common Application and any supplemental essays.
Generally, schools encourage students to submit applications as early as possible. Still, taking the time to create an impressive and well-rounded application should trump any need to apply earlier than the given deadline.
Overall, this may be a busy time of year because of the balance between schoolwork, extra-curricular activities and applications. As long as you plan ahead, you will be able to accomplish all of these tasks, but you will need to prioritize.
If the submission deadline is tomorrow, perhaps you may delay an essay, as it remains important to permit ample time for schoolwork. Regular-decision applications will include the transcript for the beginning of senior year.
November/December: Hold Steady
November 1 is the Early Action or Early Decision deadline for a large portion of universities, but plenty of students can see themselves at many universities and decide not to utilize these options.
After submitting these early applications, students may feel stressed as they await the decisions, which usually arrive by mid-December.
Alexander Pope wrote, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” While students wait for their prospective schools to respond, focusing on schoolwork and regular decision applications will help to steady any nerves in addition to preparing students for possible rejection.
Students should not place all hope in a single school, since applicants are rejected for all sorts of reasons. For every applicant, a large pool of schools exists in which he or she can receive both an excellent education and a great college experience.
Even if students decide to forgo early applications, oncoming winter signals regular decision deadlines (usually January 1 or 15). Most students will need this time to complete applications and any extra work required by individual programs.
In addition, students who have not found time to visit their potential schools should definitely attempt a visit before they submit applications.
January and Beyond: Decisions, Decisions
After all is submitted and completed, students can congratulate themselves because their only college-related task now is to await decisions. Easier said than done.
Soon, however, midterms will distract students from the fear of rejection. Before students realize it, the time will come to make their decisions.
The decision on where to attend college is both over- and under-hyped in importance.
Many students will succeed at a multitude of institutions, but transferring is often a hassle and students should try their best to choose the right match for themselves.
How does a student decide which school is best for them? Each college boasts its own specific and interesting programs, such as research programs in Antarctica (Wesleyan), sophomore-year acceptance into law school (Georgetown) or a free gap year of volunteering abroad (Princeton).
Additionally, family members and friends who have recently made their own decisions can be valuable resources.
Most of all, the gut feeling that the student experiences on campus can foretell whether that student would fit in within that school’s environment.
If you feel overwhelmed, remember that success can be found at most institutions, so choosing the school that you want to attend is the most important part of the process.
In the worst-case scenario, transfer remains an option, and so this decision should not consume your life or distract you from schoolwork.
College will hopefully be one of the freest and happiest times of your life, so looking forward to the experience is far more productive than lamenting the rejection from your dream school.