Dec 12, 2014

15 ways to keep the ball rolling after you ‘hit submit’

Occidental College

If you haven’t pushed the “submit” button on the last of your college applications, stop reading.

You need to put 100% effort into completing the job—preferably before the holidays.

But if you find yourself in the enviable position of having finished all of your applications, congratulations!  Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.
Just don’t get too comfortable.  In the words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” and you need to make sure all the “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed before you can relax.

In fact, the wise applicant keeps the application ball rolling by taking these steps:
  1. Check in with teachers who agreed to write letters of recommendation on your behalf  and make sure everything has been submitted including to those colleges not using one-stop submissions through the Common Application. A hand-written “thank you” will definitely underscore how much you appreciate their support.
  2. Make sure standardized test results—including Subject Test scores when necessary—have been sent from the appropriate testing agency or agencies to colleges requiring SAT’s or ACT’s.  Note that most colleges do not ordinarily require or want official reports for Advanced Placement (AP) tests, so check that off your list.
  3. If you submitted applications electronically, go back and review your “receipts” and confirm that the application, supplement(s), and payment were all sent. These are usually separate processes, and you are responsible for their completion.
  4. Check with your school counselor and/or transcript clerk to make sure that transcripts and secondary school reports have been submitted. Again, a nice thank-you note would certainly be appreciated by all involved.
  5. If you applied early to a college requiring the submission of a CSS PROFILE for financial aid consideration, verify that your parents have completed and sent all required information.
  6. Double check that materials necessary for school-based merit scholarships or honors programs have been completed and sent. These can have different requirements and/or deadlines.
  7. Review email and telephone messages daily. You may get requests for interviews or for follow-up information to which you must promptly respond.
  8. If you have been provided with a special log-in to check the status of your application, do so. And do it frequently. This is the best way to know if all elements of your application have been received.
  9. Consider updating colleges on important information like outstanding senior year grades or any new memberships, awards, and accomplishments occurring after you submitted your application. This is a one-time opening. Don’t abuse the privilege by sending daily updates.
  10. Begin thinking about federal financial aid. If you haven’t done so already, get your PIN number on the FAFSA website. You won’t be able to apply until after January 1st, but it’s good to have a head start on the process.
  11. While you’re thinking about financial aid, start exploring outside scholarship opportunities.  Check in with FastWeb or Cappex to see what’s still out there and how you may qualify. And note that some of those essays you wrote for colleges may be recycled for scholarship applications.
  12. Follow-up with the admissions office if you are concerned about the status of your application or if something seems amiss. Don’t bother calling for a little insider information—you won’t get an admissions decision over the phone.
  13. Consider revisiting top colleges on your list—if feasible.  See a basketball game, go to an art exhibit, attend a performance, have lunch, or even take another tour. Now that the paperwork is complete, a second look may help clarify your thinking and signal to colleges your continued very strong interest.
  14. Redouble your efforts to be an active and involved student.  Find new opportunities to volunteer in your community or add a new extracurricular activity.  This is the time to upgrade your community service profile and show initiative to colleges that may be on the fence about your candidacy.
  15. Most importantly, keep focused on your school work. Declining grades will hurt if you are deferred from early admission or wait listed later in the game. And improved grades may qualify you for additional financial support or at least give you an argument
And stay connected. Colleges invest heavily in online media and like to think applicants are benefiting from all the expense and effort. Facebook, Twitter, as well as staff and student blogs will help you keep in touch while your application makes its way through the process.

As the days tick down to decision, be aware of timelines and review the terms of your application.  Don’t necessarily jump at the first offer.  Keep in mind that unless you have applied Early Decision—a binding commitment to attend—you have until May 1, 2015, to make up your mind.

And that’s a long time to think things over.

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