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No time to waste: Application deadline looms large

Gerald Bradshaw

Gerald Bradshaw

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Updated: January 14, 2014 12:03PM



Dear Mr. Bradshaw,

I am applying to 15 colleges and most of them have Jan. 1, 2014, deadlines. Do you have any advice about how to prioritize the application process?

Signed, Student

Dear Student,

College application deadlines seem to creep up on you, don’t they? When you started filling out your applications in early August, I am sure that you thought there would be more than enough time to complete them with ease.

Here you are only a few weeks away from the deadline and you realize that there is still a lot of work left to do — not the least of which is to make sure you have written outstanding essays, which will set you apart from all of the other admission candidates.

What happened to all the time? That is an easy answer. You did not employ any time management skills and you let school and other activities take priority over completion of your applications. This is a fault common with many students who do not realize how much work a quality application takes.

Now you are up against the wall and need to find a way to complete all of them with only a few weeks left in which to do it.

First of all you have to make some hard choices. Final examinations may also place increasing demands on your time and something has to give.

I suggest that you follow my Bradshaw College Consulting Application Boot Camp solution. Hibernate for the next couple of weeks.

Give up all outside activities other than classes. If you have a job take a leave from it, if at all possible. Skip all school social functions and prepare to isolate yourself like a hermit.

In my experience this is the only way to get everything done on time. If you follow this advice, you will free up a sufficient amount of time to meet the application deadline and study for examinations.

Since most applications are completed on a computer, be sure that you have all of the necessary information at hand and ready to enter.

Sports and extracurricular activities take more time to enter on the new Common Application, so be prepared for a learning curve.

While many colleges use the Common Application, others do not and they demand additional information particular to their needs.

Most colleges require essays in addition to those included on the Common Application. Be prepared to write a lot!

Not to shock you, but essays are often used as the defining factor for admitting students. I advise students to leave home and family stories out of their essays, along with information about school and grades.

Tell them what you have accomplished that shows leadership and explain what knowledge and skills you hope to gain from your college experience. If you have realistic career aspirations, this is another good area to cover in your essays.

Naviance and DecisionDesk offer application management tools that high school and colleges use to manage the application process, so you need to be familiar with these services as well.



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