Monday, November 7, 2011

After hitting “submit,” is it finally over?

This fall, nearly all the students with whom I worked applied Early Decision. Many of them hit the submit button with a sigh of relief, especially here in the Northeast where charging stations were at a premium. (Fortunately, many colleges extended their deadlines because of the power outages.) So now is the process essentially over, or is it just the beginning of the end?

It will be a while until we know how this year’s early application volumes compare to those of 2010. However, consider this advice to deferred students from Christoph Guttentag, Dean of Admission at Duke, published in Jacques Steinberg’s New York Times column:

“The hard truth is that if you applied early decision and were deferred, for most of you, unfortunately, the process is essentially over. Take a look at the defer letter — does it say what the admit percentage is for defers? If it does, take that number seriously. Keep that list of other colleges you’ve applied to close to your heart, because the odds say you’re going to be choosing from among one of them.” (New York Times, 2/9/10)

If your student has applied ED I, now is not the time to rest. He or she should get comfortable checking into an online account assigned by the ED I school. If the ED I college offers an alumni interview, the student should be ready when called. (See my blog “Answering Questions about the College Interview.”) Make sure your student stays out of trouble and keeps grades high between now and the mid-year report. These grades are critical for students who wind up in the Regular Admissions pool. Also, should there be a noteworthy accomplishment (e.g., being named a team captain or winning an academic award.), the student should contact the appropriate rep in the admissions office.

If your student plans to apply ED II, make sure that application is done and ready to go. ED II is a wonderful option, especially for students who do want to avoid competing with Regular Decision applicants. Most ED II applications are due in early January with a decision rendered in mid February. (See my blog “The Early Bird Gets the Worm, but Should It Apply ED II?”)

If your student has already been accepted to a rolling admission or nonbinding Early Action program
, he or she is very fortunate indeed. There is still time to go “fishing” to see what else is out there. Whether it’s a better financial package or a better fit, choice can be a good thing.

The bottom line: no student should be left without a fallback plan. If a student is deferred or declined in mid-December, there will not be much time until Regular Decision applications are due. Make sure these apps receive as much care as an Early Decision I app. For those schools you’ve yet to visit, I would advise taking a virtual tour and checking on in order to narrow down choices. Your student should be sure to load backup choices on the Common App and to draft essay questions for target colleges.

While I hope to hear all good news from parents in mid-December, I also understand that in many cases, parents and counselors may be the ones picking up the pieces after a child is deferred or declined. That’s why you need to urge students to be as productive as possible between now and January 2012. We all know how quickly time goes around the holidays. It seems to go by even faster when college applications are due. But remember that next year at this time, you'll be welcoming your student home for Thanksgiving, anxious to hear about freshman-year adventures and grateful that college applications are part of the past.

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