Students Deadlines Are NOT Your Due Dates
Reading applications is the most time-consuming part of an admissions counselor’s job, so they read early, often, and in the order in which applications are received.
But of course a student’s application has to be complete for it to be reviewed, and that’s where you come in. Your recommendation and the accompanying transcript are crucial in an admissions counselor’s review. You know this.
So when a student rushes into your office, or shoots off that late night email begging you to submit your parts of their application ASAP, you may feel compelled to oblige. Yes, you’ve advised them to be organized, to plan ahead, to ask for things in a timely manner, but students are so good at having justifiable reasons why the necessary prep didn’t happen this time, with this college, at this particular point in the year. But just because they’re rushing to meet a deadline doesn’t necessarily mean you have to as well.
A Student’s Deadline vs. Your Deadline
If a college says an admission application is due by Dec. 1, for example, that means the student’s portion of the application is due by Dec. 1. If your portion of the application is submitted to the university on Dec. 1 or Feb. 1, it doesn’t make the application late. So when a student comes to you in a crisis-mode, you are not obligated to drop everything and accommodate them.
But it’s still good to submit your portion of a student’s application sooner rather than later.
Why is Early Better?
Reading Season is a long, hard slog. When I worked in a high-volume application office, we were expected to read 50 applications a day. Sure, we could do the work from home, and that seemed nice, but was it? The season ran from December through February, which means I’d load a box full of hundreds of applications in their manilla folders (back in the days of paper applications), then go home and hunker down in the dark days of a Pennsylvania winter, reading app after app. I wanted to give everyone a good read, be fair to all, but this is life and life isn’t fair.
The Dean ultimately made the decisions, so throughout the season we’d return to the office to stock up on more applications and present to him the ones we’d recently read. As the number of admits rose and the day to drop all decisions drew near, we jockeyed for our time to advocate for students from our territory, students we had met and liked, students of school counselors we’d become friends with, or students from schools where we wanted to gain some momentum and hope for more applications in the future. In those final weeks, we’d be debating the merits of one application over another so much that sometimes you couldn’t even remember what you were fighting for anymore.
I always felt bad for those final batches of applications, the ones that came it at the January 1 deadline, because they were competing for admission under very different circumstances than those submitted in August.
Applying Early is NOT the Same As Early Decision or Early Action
Nothing I’ve written here applies to Early Decision or Early Action. There conditional application methods are a post unto themselves. I’m talking about students submitting Regular Decision admissions applications as soon as they can. The Common Application is available starting August 1 of a student’s senior year. Ask them at the end of their junior year to look ahead: do they play a fall sport; plan on joining the cast of the winter musical; feel nervous about the workload of all those AP classes they registered for? Then they should get their applications done before the school year even starts and have one less thing on their to-do list.
Forget Everything I Wrote When Dealing With Financial Aid Applications
Of course there is one area of college admissions where deadlines are firm for everyone: financial aid. If you owe anything as part of a student’s financial aid and/or scholarship application, then that deadline must be met by all parties in time.
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