College planning season started in March, so if you are reading this now, you are behind. For those of you with children that will be going into senior year of high school in the fall, it is time to kick college planning into full gear!
Every day counts now. Families are usually in vacation mode in the summer and students don’t want to think about school, let alone college applications. However, time flies in the summer, and the fall is so busy, it is hard to fit anything else in. It is, therefore, important that if you haven’t started college applications already, that you start today. Here are a few reasons it is vital to start college applications early.
College applications have changed since most of us went to college. As college has become more competitive, essays have become the best way to separate students from GPA and test scores. Therefore, colleges have gone a little crazy in asking for more essays. Sure, there’s the Common and Coalition Apps that have made main essays easier, but the supplements can get out of control.
On average, students I work with typically write around 30 essays. There are some schools that require over 10 supplemental essays alone! Multiply that by 8-12 schools, and it adds up. I cannot stress the importance of starting early, as essays slow down the application process. If you plan for writing and editing, it takes a lot more time than students think to get through these essays- start early!
Colleges do not have unlimited spots available. The research on this varies, but generally, admissions rates are 20-40% higher when students apply early, that is, before the Early Action deadline, which is typically in October or November. Most universities, with the exception of highly competitive universities, utilize rolling admissions, which means they will view your application when they receive it.
All pieces of the application need to be submitted for it to be complete: transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores, etc. If you’ve been planning, you can easily have these materials ready as early as September. Because admissions advisors aren’t so busy in September, I often see students get their acceptance letters within a week of submission. This means that your child could have most of their acceptance letters by the end of September! That’s a huge weight to have off your shoulders. Other students will be scrambling while you are planning college tours. It’s a great place to be in.
Just as colleges do not have an unlimited number of spots available, they do not have unlimited funds either. If your child submits their application and FAFSA early, they have a much better chance of getting scholarships and grants. Once the well dries up, the money is gone. Let’s look at two examples. Student A and Student B have the same GPA and test scores, and their parents make the same amount of money. In fact, all things being considered, they look the same on paper. However, Student A applies in September and submits all their financial paperwork and Student B applies in January. Student A will very likely get thousands of dollars more in aid than Student B.
Every year I have clients call me and tell me that their student forgot to turn in a scholarship application or financial paperwork to the school until after the deadline. We always work to fix it and make a plan to move forward. However, in this scenario, they missed their chance, even if they would have qualified for certain scholarships at the university. Why would the university want to give money to a student that can’t submit paperwork on time when so many others did?
Like I said earlier, the earlier you apply, the faster you get a decision. Sure, many schools do not work on a rolling admissions policy, but most do. For those students that wait until the day an application is due, there are thousands of applications in front of them, so the wait is long.
I have students who submit their applications in September or early October and have most of their acceptance letters by the end of the month. This means you can have most of your acceptances in September or October while other families are waiting until March or April. That leaves a lot more time to plan tours or start applying for scholarships.
If it isn’t apparent by now, the worst thing you can do is wait to start college planning. It is incredibly stressful to try and finish all those essays in a few days while there’s also homework and school activities. Plus, since many students wait so long, I have seen the application systems crash every year because they get overloaded around 11:00pm the day applications are due. That is SO stressful! With some planning and guidance, college applications do not need to be so stressful, and you can gain admission to your choice school and win financially too.