Leave it to Thanksgiving to bring out the panic in people. Colleges with early application deadlines are busy reading essays and talking about students, while a vast majority of colleges are still waiting for students to apply—and these are the students who, for some reason, are convinced applying to college is harder than it really is.
In the interest of saving the college plans of seniors and the holiday plans of their counselors, here’s a quick rundown of what to do, what not to do, and what is really, absolutely untrue about the college selection process:
You can’t send your test scores until you apply to the college. If anything, the exact opposite is true—if you are going to apply to any more colleges this year, send your test scores now. Depending on the college, and depending on the test company, scores might not arrive at the college right away, so waiting to send the scores could actually delay the review of your application, or eliminate you from consideration, if your application is incomplete. Colleges put the test scores in a special place if they get there before your application, and if you never apply, the scores are securely destroyed in the summer. Order them now.
Counselor and teacher letters should be sent after the student applies. This is a really bad idea for any college you’re applying to. If teachers and counselors had to hold off sending transcripts and letters until you apply on, say, December 29th for a college with a January 1st deadline, that would put the application system on overload, risk your application being deemed incomplete, and drive your teachers and counselors crazy. They can, and should, submit your materials now, when the system is wide open, and no deadlines can threaten submissions. It’s fine for you to wait until vacation to apply; your teachers and counselor don’t have that choice, since they will be, well, on vacation. Let them do their job, while they are on the job.
Colleges don’t want your application until the day it’s due. I don’t know how to break this to you, but most colleges that have a January 1st application deadline are closed on New Year’s Day. Their computers are still on, so you can still submit applications that day, but no one is in the office keeping track of who submitted, and when.
Since the only risk you run with an early application is that it might be read early (and is that really a risk?), you have nothing to lose by sending your application now. If you have four college applications to complete, do one a weekend, and you’ll be done before Christmas, while still having Thanksgiving weekend off. All-nighters are fun, once you’re in college; pulling one to apply to college could ensure that you won’t get there.
Your counselor finds out your admissions decision before you do. A few colleges are nice enough to let your high school know who was admitted, but that list usually comes a month after you find out. Don’t leave your teachers and counselor in the dark; let them know what the college decides as soon as you hear. This not only helps them support any college plans you may have to change—it’s also a great feeling to share good news with them.
Once a college admits you, your senior grades don’t matter. An offer of admission is a like a driver’s license—you only get to keep it if you keep showing you deserve it. ‘Nuff said.