This is crunch time for students applying early!
1. What are some fatal errors students make right before sending in their applications?
I’ve seen so many students who have done everything they should be doing throughout the process: They understand how they’re going to position themselves on the application; they do free-writing exercises to generate ideas for the essays; they determine what they’ll emphasize about their personality. Then they read something like “100 Great College Essays,” they start to doubt themselves, and they change everything. As tough as it is to keep a clear head, students need to keep the following in mind:
- Trust your instincts.
- Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
- You will not write the perfect college essay. It doesn’t exist.
It's important have others review your essay, but stay away from getting a million opinions on your writing. Odds are, no one that you’ll solicit ideas from will have even worked in college admissions, and too many cooks spoil the broth. Trust yourself and develop a selective filter regarding what advice you listen to.
2. What are some things that should definitely be on a student's checklist at this point in time?
For November 1 EA and ED, here’s the short list:
- Make sure your registrar/counselor is submitting transcripts with the EA/ED deadlines in mind. In the event that you’ve taken college classes (even if the courses appear on your high school transcript), the official college transcripts should go in, too.
- Make sure your teachers are submitting letters of recommendation by the appropriate deadlines. At every stage, thank them for their help. This isn’t really part of their job, so make sure you’re appreciative.
- Have official SAT/ACT/SAT Subject Tests reported.
- Get the Common Application fully populated — and use the “Print Preview” function. The Common App has a history of allowing text to appear in the online version of the application, while cutting it off in the PDF version. The biggest culprits are the “Short Answer” and the “Activities.” Most schools will primarily use the PDF, so double-check it!
3. What are some tips in terms of parental involvement during this stressful stretch?
Get involved, but get involved in the right way. Monitor the technical details and the logistics. Know when everything is due, what needs to go in to the counselors by when, which teachers writing letters of rec want addressed envelopes, and so on. Be the “eyes in the sky.” Try to stay out of the way of the essay. Unless you’ve read several thousand applications, you probably won’t be able to make the right call on content and style. And, in the meantime you’ll stress out the applicant. If you want to help, bring in an outside counselor, or at the very least a neutral third party with prior college essay exposure.
4. Should students freeze their social media accounts immediately after they submit their apps?
I’m going to sound like a grumpy old man, but students should begin doing something now that they’ll inevitably need to do in the future: Stop putting stupid things on networking sites. If you need to “freeze your account” to avoid having an offer of admission pulled, you should probably rethink both your lifestyle and your privacy settings.
5. How can you help students between now and Nov.1?
Outside of strategy here and there (for instance, selecting the appropriate college to apply to at Cornell), the majority of the help will come in terms of the essay. Clearly, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but there are some “third rails” of college essay writing that applicants really need to know about. Even further, if the first set of essays that goes out is solid (and we’ll make sure it is), a solid foundation will be laid for later essays built off of this first group. So, consider this not just “clean-up” for November 1 applications, but think of it as the first step to building better applications throughout the fall.
Edward LaMeire is a the CEO of LaMeire College Consulting. Edward has worked as an Admissions Officer at Loyola University and The University of California, San Diego. Edward on Unigo