First, I wrote, How do you handle deadlines?, outlining our household strategies, and asked for other suggestions.
Second, I listed some of those suggestions in How to deal with college application deadlines, part one: 9 Tips.
Here, in a long but valuable read, is advice from a number of independent college counselors. I’ve provided a link for each, and I reiterate my thanks for the advice they’ve offered. Emphasis (in bold) is mine.
We earn our money by helping with the deadline struggle. It’s not easy unless you’re devoted to the task. By starting early, I create a calendar and review tasks every week. We make appointments to stay weeks ahead of every deadline. It’s a bit neurotic schedule-wise, but we are relaxed and the students and families are all happy. Beepers on your calendar also help!
While I’m sure I will elicit a chuckle, these kinds of deadlines are a little like setting the clocks in your house ten minutes fast so your husband will be punctual. I have urged my students to keep a spreadsheet and use color as a guide so to speak. List the real deadline in blue (the student’s “responsibility” deadline in red) and backdate everything a month. They can begin early to light a fire in order to get others to meet deadlines and if there are circumstances that delay… they are still in a good place. I also urge to set application deadlines for Nov 1st (Oct 1st) for all colleges. I want students to utilize their summer time to their advantage so that essays are completed, applications are ready to send (or hit send) and all “forms” are in @ guidance as soon as they return to school. Their only obligation is making sure the teacher recs have come in. They also have to schedule “appointment” time weekly with their counselor if things are being held up on that end until there is assurance everything is sent (by the deadline the student has self imposed).
They can then enjoy senior year… stress free and they did their part early enough that counselors aren’t overburdened. Also, urge them to keep track of the guidance portal (Naviance) to make sure everything was imported as promised. I might add… if it’s an overly stressed student or dare I say “helicopter parent” … will make sure colleges called and they are in receipt. Hope this helps.
One of the toughest aspects of operating in advance of “deadlines” is that students are so accustomed to the due date structure of high school academics. After all, who hands in a class assignment before the due date <g>? So with that goes my oft-repeated mantra: “Deadlines are NOT due dates!”
I don’t know if this will be any help at all but let me share some observations from the college side especially those of us who use “rolling admissions.” It is clearly stated in all Otis College of Art and Design’s materials that we begin to review fall applications on December 1 every year. It is also clearly stated that our “priority deadline” is February 15 every year.
Each application is reviewed by an individual who does a summary of the student’s qualifications and then the file is reviewed by the Admissions Committee. When we begin our reviews in December everybody is fresh, eager and focused. The number of files that come through in December and January are steady and the flow is manageable. Then February 1 rolls around and the “crush” begins. We will receive 65 to 75 percent of our entire application pool in the two weeks between February 1 and February 15. The effort and time it takes to process the applications is staggering and there are many late night and weekend reading sessions.
I don’t know about the others who read admissions files but I can attest that personally I’m not as fresh, eager or focused in February as I was in December and January when I could take more time with the file, re-read essays, study the student’s portfolio and carefully read the narrative portions of the recommendations.
So if a student is applying to the school where they use human beings (as opposed to computers) to conduct a holistic review; to get the reviewers’ and the committee’s fullest attention, apply well before the deadline when everyone is still fresh, eager and focused. That’s my .02 cents from the college side.
I advise my students that submitting an application and the supporting materials significantly before the deadline implies interest. It may not be as strong a sign as binding early decision, but it does let a college know that they are not a last minute add-on. In addition to this, I create deadline spreadsheets and as necessary, follow-up with cyber-nagging.
That does not mean that all my students miss no deadlines, but the ones that do, do so by choice.
When I begin with students in the junior year or earlier, I tell them that the goal is to have at least 75% of their application materials completed before the first day of school as a senior. I then place them on a schedule during the summer to achieve this. Some reach the goal and others fall off schedule by their own choice.
I investigated College Essay Organizer but found that most of the colleges’ essays were not posted until mid-August, which was later than when I found the essays on some of the college websites. Since I like my students to begin writing as strategizing for their essays as soon as possible, I did not find the timeliness of this resource an ideal fit.
I don’t know what others practices/policies are like with the clients you serve, but for families planning to work with me, I tell them up front that the goal is to have everything (essays, supplements, Common App, other school’s apps not on the common app, Resume, etc.), all completed by August 31 before the start of their senior year. That means they are working with me all summer to complete these things and they must leave time in their summer schedule to do this and also finish up college visits, as much as possible on the college visit side. (Some do some extra ones in the fall because they are athletic recruits). This way they can concentrate on the getting the best grades of their lives and also clean up details in the fall (like notifying the Guidance office and their recommenders where they are applying along with the deadlines and submitting the actual applications by early October or before). I have my arts students also writing musician’s statements, artist’s statements, portfolio comments all in that summer as well.
While the students feel like they are working with a slave driver (and I do tell them this in advance), they are so happy to usually be the among the first to submit their applications and have the monkey off their backs. They watch as their other friends and classmates try to juggle everything that they haven’t yet done in a fall term that is nearly unmanageable. For my performing arts students, it is particularly critical to have everything done upfront because many colleges/universities will not schedule auditions until the completed application is in!
I have client management software that helps with my own deadlines and an Excel spreadsheet that I have developed for those who want to see everything that has to be done on one piece of paper and they can fill it in as they complete each item for each college. I also use the College Essay Organizer to help my students see they don’t have to write 15 essays, but maybe only 5 as these can be recylced for different colleges. If they miss my deadlines, I am on the phone and sending emails (that also go to their parents), reminding them they have missed my deadline. My job is to make sure they get their jobs done well before any college deadlines.
Not every one can work with me, and I do have students every year who are “stragglers” dragging their feet, but the majority are done well in advance. Some just have personalities where they are just natural born procrastinators, but I usually know this in advance through the administration early on in the process of the “dowhatyouare” career and inventory assessment that tells me what personality type they are. I am just a deadline oriented person and I believe in getting as much done upfront as possible because you can never predict what is going to happen on the back end. I personally don’t like 11th hour drama and I know this about myself. That doesn’t mean that I don’t ever have it and I have to remind myself that if I stay cool, they will too!
In addition, I establish my own due dates for students so that I have time to review their essays et. al. That’s part of our job: to guide the process which includes adherence to due dates — much better than deadlines.
The early bird gets the worm! I looked into a scholarship that wasn’t due until May 1st and was told (last week!) that the money had already been awarded. I had made a note to “apply early as money is given out on a first come, first served basis”, but had no idea it was given out THAT early. Encouraging students to get applications in as early as possible is the best possible advice, as well as giving letter of recommendation writers lots of time and not pressuring them because of a looming deadline.
Oh, yes. While there are many aspects of college admissions for which families can use help, this one — helping ensure students adhere to due dates — might be the most valuable.
Coming next, part three with specific tools to try.