As November 1st approaches, many high school seniors are busy adding the final touches to their college applications under ‘Early’ application plans. These students will receive a decision in mid-December. Depending on that result, some students will be finished with their application process, some will adjust the remainder of their college list, and others will be in refocus and reorganize mode.
This entry has two simple, yet important, messages for seniors working on their college applications right now.
First, beyond strategy, really ask yourself why a school is on your list in the first place. Reputation and prestige should not be the reasons. Look beyond these factors to an honest assessment of yourself and the schools you are considering. If you are having trouble answering the ‘why X school’ question, take that as an indicator that perhaps that particular school should not be viewed as your top choice. As students and families look with aspiration on a college community, it is easy to convince oneself that one school is the only possible destination. Instead, challenge yourself to deeply understand the culture, the curriculum and the community features of each institution you consider adding to your college list. How well do these aspects align with your self-reflections around the 5 I’s? This question is particularly critical as you consider making a commitment to apply under an Early application plan, which can result in an obligation to enroll if you are admitted. There are many wonderful institutions that offer an incredible education. Don’t limit yourself by closing yourself off too early in this process, or by not doing a rigorous and honest self-reflection.
Second, be realistic in assessing how much of a boost you can expect from applying early. Yes, admit rates are higher under many early plans, but this is not the time, in football parlance, for a ‘Hail Mary.’ If your testing falls in or near the bottom quarter of an institution’s reported testing range and your grades show improvement over time, but aren’t at the top of the class, applying early probably will not compensate for your current credentials. Instead, focus on places that align with your interests and where your academics place you in at least the top half of scores reported. If a school is test optional, focus more on your courses and grades. Will a school commit a spot now or will they be more likely to wait to see who else applies in subsequent rounds? This can be difficult to predict, but you can put yourself in the best possible position by applying to schools where your academic credentials are within the ballpark of the admitted student profile. Now is the time for a realistic appraisal of your academic work and an honest conversation about selectivity.
Following these concepts of alignment and calibration will help you in considering potential Early and Regular application options. Most important is an honest self-reflection of your academic accomplishments, your personal learning style, and your interests. Combined with thoughtful research on a range of schools, your college search should not only produce an opportunity for continued educational development, but also a deeper understanding of yourself.
Tune in to The Process this Friday, October 26th from 1:00 to 2:00 PM Eastern Time on SiriusXM Stars Channel 109. We will be joined by David Charlow from Access Applied and Adam Ingersoll from Compass Education Group. Call in at 888-94-STARS (888-947-8277). We look forward to hearing from you.