Updated: Nov 2
Happy October! It's the season for fall leaves and Halloween decorations, and if you are a high school senior or the parent of one, you're working your way through plenty of caffeine (perhaps in the form of the occasional pumpkin spice latte), college application deadlines, and, of course, higher-than-usual stress levels.
It is currently crunch time for early action/early decision applications, and the remaining deadlines are coming up fast. Here is a sampling of recent application FAQs from my clients and their parents. I hope you find these responses/tips helpful.
In what order should my common app activities (and/or UC activities) be listed?
There is no perfect science to ordering your activities, but whatever you think is most impressive should probably get listed first. I tell my clients that the first few activities should be those that reflect what they are most passionate about, combined with highest number of hours spent. Leadership roles should be listed prominently, and recent involvement is also important. That first slot is valuable; don't waste it on an activity that you started and stopped in 9th grade.
FYI, my blog post from May of 2022 has some helpful tips on how to describe the activities once you’ve put them in the optimal order: https://www.laurelcc.com/post/the-extracurriculars
I'm not sure which schools I should send my SAT/ACT scores to.....?
The decision to submit test scores or not has become yet another anxiety-inducing aspect of the application process. For some schools, applicants don't have a choice: University of Georgia, Georgetown, University of Florida, and MIT, among others, have started requiring test scores again after a three-year pandemic hiatus. Conversely, the CA public schools are now “test blind,” which means they no longer accept standardized test scores at all.
What should one do about the majority of schools, which still happen to be “test optional”? The advice I share with my clients, and which has become standard practice, is to pay close attention to the average admitted-student test score from the previous year, especially for a highly selective school. For example, Tufts University reports that the middle 50% of their accepted, test-submitting students last season scored between 33 and 35 (composite) on the ACT, so this year, I would advise my students to submit a 34 or higher to Tufts. If their grades and course rigor were excellent, they could submit a 33, but anything below that is better left as a test optional application.
Do I really have until 11:59 PM to submit an application that's due at midnight?
Well.... this one should be a resounding, obvious NO! Do not wait until the very last minute to submit applications. We have all heard horror stories about systems crashing or students who didn’t consider time zones; an application submitted at 10PM PST for an East Coast school with a midnight deadline will be considered late. Try to plan ahead and get your applications in at least a day before the deadline.
Can I make changes to my personal statement after I’ve submitted my early applications?
Yes. You may make edits/improvements between every submission if you would like. However, I would caution against making last-minute changes out of anxiety or emotion.
If your EA or ED news isn’t what you were hoping for, though, it might be time to revisit that personal statement to make sure it sounds amazing for your remaining schools.
Parents: please resist the temptation to directly critique, or worse, change your child's essay at the last minute. It will only exacerbate your senior's anxiety. It's also highly unethical. Parental feedback in the drafting stages is encouraged, but always keep in mind that this is your child's application, not yours.
What is the last thing I should do before I hit the “submit” button?
Read every essay and activity description out loud. This is the most effective way to proofread everything meticulously. Most important: triple check to make sure you have the correct school’s name in its supplemental essay!!
Good luck! As always, please contact me if you have questions, or would like to book an introductory consultation for your freshman, sophomore, or junior.