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Deadlines for Early Action and Early Decision Draw Near

As October draws to a close, early action and early decision deadlines approach. Students wishing to apply for BA/BS/MD programs, other "fast-track" majors, and honors programs need to submit their applications at this time, as well. These applications take time and a lot work. Students should not wait until the deadline to submit their applications. Rather, the sooner the better. The applications should not be rushed, so if a student is planning on applying early, he should get moving.

Students should also have the following checklist items:

1.         Recommendations from at least 2 teachers. Even if some of the colleges do not want them, it is a good idea to have a minimum of 2 recommendations. After the teacher has agreed to write one for the student, the student should write a hand-written note of thanks. Remember to follow up on those recommendations and make certain the teacher has submitted them. Sometimes, a teacher is so bogged down with work a student’s recommendation may fall by the wayside.

2.         Some schools have "brag sheets" for students to fill out so the guidance counselors and recommenders have some background information. Please submit them.

3.         FERPA agreements between the school and parents may be necessary if the student is under 18 years of age. FERPA agreements from the college application to Naviance (if a school has this program) may also be required.

4.         Along with the application, the student should leave plenty of time for the transcript request. The guidance counselor may not send the transcript on the day it was requested, and the receiving university may not process the transcript on the day it was received.

5.         College entrance exams, such as the ACT or SAT, may take a few days to be sent to the receiving college, do not wait until the deadline to order those scores be sent.

6.         Some colleges have a student reported academic record form that students need to fill out with their grades from high school. This is a tedious part of the application and should be completed prior to application submission.

7.         Portfolio reviews are important to those students applying for art, architecture, and fashion programs. Look to see when those take place in your area.

8.         Auditions schedules vary from one institution to another. If a student is applying for performing arts, he should check to see when videos and in-person auditions need to be scheduled.

9.         Read, read, and re-read the material in the application aloud and then have someone else read the application. Make certain there are no spelling, grammatical or organizational mistakes. Once the common application has been sent to one college, the student may not edit the information or the essay. Only the supplements may be worked on after submission.

10.     Students may only apply to one school for a binding early decision. This is a contract. Any student who applies and gets accepted using more than one binding early decision option may be subject to a lawsuit.

11.     Prior-prior year student financial aid applications may also be submitted now for both the FAFSA (fafsa.ed.gov) and the CSS Profile (collegeboard.org).

12.     Have a resume prepared.  This resume should describe the activities in which the student had participated.  It should include the AP or IB courses and test scores; any ACT, SAT, and/or SAT II tests and scores; any awards; any leadership roles; and any extra-curricular activities of the student.

Prior Prior Year Financial Aid

FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and the CSS Profile are allowing students to file early, in October, for financial aid.  Previously, the FAFSA application was to be filed no earlier than January 1 of the year a student would be attending college.  

Now, some colleges are demanding that students file for financial aid earlier. This is especially the case for priority aid that comes directly from the institutions themselves. This adds another layer of pressure for students who are just beginning the application process.

Students and their parents are asked to provide income data on from two years prior to the current year (hence the name).  There are some inherent drawbacks with Prior Prior Year. One glaring flaw is this data may no longer be relevant to the student's family's current financial situation. 

Summer Break Activities Can Be Used For College Application Essays

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What I did on my summer vacation.


Every year in school, or so it seemed, I had to write an essay about what I did on my summer vacation.  Many students go to camp or on a family trip, others may seek employment opportunities, some may perform community service, and there are those who just relax and enjoy the season.  Whatever it is that one does, it is a great subject for one’s college application personal statement.  A personal statement is a story about the student that gives the admission’s personnel an inside look at the applicant.  It does not have to be full of four-syllable words or about rebuilding homes in some remote third-world country.  It has to be about the student – with just the right amount of emotion and realism.


There are plenty of tools to help students document their summer experience.  The smartphone has a camera; take lots of “selfies” and sift through them.  There are some great applications, such as ZeeMee, available free of charge, to organize them. Even Microsoft has Notes, a tool that allows the user to take pictures and write some notes about it.  Students may upload pictures into their Virtual Folders in the Coalition Application, if they so choose.  Everyone knows that students are constantly using their smart phones for SnapChat, Instagram, and Facebook, so why not use some of those pictures? It is likely that something the student does during summer vacation will make a good personal statement on the college application. 

Common App releases 2016 prompts!

The Common Application website has published the prompts for the 2015-2016 essay.   I have pasted them below and included my commentary:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The student is the focus.  Try to limit this to just one story.  Do not write about a season as the quarterback of your high school, write about a specific game that gives insight into who the student is.
2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

The key here is how the student learned from the experience.  Try to avoid highlighting bad habits or putting down a peer or teacher.

3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Avoid speaking about a lapse in judgement.  Students should present themselves in the best light possible.
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

This should be just about the student - even if it was a group project the student in which the student participated.  Exclude the name or any personal information about anyone else involved.
5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Be specific and heart-felt.

The essay is a student's first impression on the admissions team.  Remember, one never gets a second chance to make a first impression.

Be advised that any application created at this time will be cleaned out in July.  Students who have created a common application  account will need to re-enter information come this August.