November seems to be rushing by, especially if you (like your blogger) spent much of the last two weeks in the dark after Hurricane Sandy brought her wrath to the New York metro area. Once our lights came back on yesterday, it suddenly dawned on us that Thanksgiving is just over a week away -- and so is the ideal date for college bound students to complete their applications.
Yes, we know that even early decision applications are not due until the very beginning of December, but we have always urged the students with whom we work to consider Thanksgiving weekend to be their unofficial deadline for completing all of their applications, even for regular admissions. There are several reasons for this. First, many colleges have rolling admissions and are literally "first come, first admitted." You want to give yourself the best chance possible to gain admission so waiting until the school has filled its allocated spaces doesn't make any sense. Even for schools without rolling admissions, the simple fact is that an earlier application generally gets reviewed earlier and by an admissions officer who has not been reading applications every day for months. You may not get acted upon sooner, but you have a better chance to make a good first impression. In addition, colleges want to see strong interest from the students they admit. They understand that students who need to see their financial aid package may not be able to apply "early decision" since this would bind them to accepting a place without knowing if they had sufficient financial aid to attend. But submitting your "regular decision" application early will make it clear that you are very interested in that school even if you are unable to apply "early decision."
What if you still haven't decided where to apply or even if you want to go right to college or take a year off to work or travel? Don't panic. Many schools accept applications well into the spring. And almost all colleges will allow a student who has been admitted to defer admission for a year to travel, work, or volunteer. The time to apply for such deferment is after you have been accepted.
So, where does this leave a high school senior? Try to finish your applications by Thanksgiving, but understand that there are options even for those who are still not finished applying by Presidents' Day. And, whenever you apply, please make sure your applications are complete and have been carefully edited before you press "submit!"