52 Weeks to College: Week 9 — Finalizing Your First Application

It’s the last week in August and you are either already back at school or just days away from starting. Everything is accelerating and intensifying and that’s why we hope you are well underway with your college applications by now.

If you’ve been following the 52 Weeks plan, then you are ready to finalize your first application, revise your second, and get started on your third! That puts you in good shape and will keep you from being too stressed out as you start your senior year.

If you haven’t been following the 52 Weeks plan, start now and commit yourself to catching up as quickly as you can. You still have a window of time before you have a full load of school work, and getting on track with your college applications by then is essential if you want to minimize your stress and maximize your success.

Week 9 To-Dos

This Week and Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Finalize your first application. Finalizing is the crucial last step before submission.
  • Revise your second application. Take the drafts that you created last week and revise them this week.
  • Draft your third application. By this point, you are an old hand at drafting, having already drafted two applications. So consult your essay map and get to work on your third application!
  • Continue working on supplementary materials with the goal of finishing them in the next couple of weeks. Supplementary materials are portfolios, audition materials, research abstracts, and the like. Note: very few of you should have this to-do on your list because you are following Week 4's advice about exhibiting restraint when it comes to these kinds of materials.
  • Check the websites of colleges on your list to see if and when admissions representatives will be coming to your school, your community, or a place near your home. Note these visits on your calendar and do your best to connect with the admissions representatives then. (We’ll have more advice about how to take advantage of these opportunities in week 10.)
  • Finalize your first scholarship application. Finalizing this application is much like finalizing your first college application, so you can use the same approach for both.
  • Draft your second scholarship application. Drafting the second one will probably go faster now that you have some experience.
  • Prep for your upcoming standardized tests. In Week 6, you made a test prep schedule for yourself. It will only work if you work it! So go to it.

Tips & Tricks

Note: Beginning this week, our tips and tricks will include references to our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application, because it has officially launched this week and is available for purchase online or in your local bookstore!

It isn’t final until it is error-free. Errors in your application detract from the positive impression you are trying to make. Grammatical and spelling errors suggest reflect badly on your academic abilities. Typographical errors or other errors in completing the application suggest carelessness or indifference, both of which work against you. That’s why you have to proofread your application very, very carefully. For a proofreading checklist and further tips on proofreading, refer to Chapter 11 in our book.

If you have a disciplinary or criminal record, you have to deal with it before you can finalize your college application. While having either sort of record dramatically reduces your chances for admission to a selective college, admissions officers can and do admit applicants with records. But to persuade an admissions officer to admit you despite your record, you are going to have to present a clear and convincing case that you have earned a second chance. That starts with your being honest and forthright in your application about your record. Beyond that, you need to make use of the multiple opportunities you have to make your case (additional essays, supporting documentation, recommendations that address it, and so on). Consult Chapter 13 in our book for our suggestions about how to build your most persuasive case.

Finalize your first application, but don’t submit it unless the college has a rolling admissions program. Rolling admissions programs favor those who submit early and first, so if the application you have completed is going to a college with a rolling admissions program, then by all means submit it. Otherwise, we encourage you to wait a little bit before submitting your first application because you’ll often discover that there are a few things you want to change if you wait until late September or early October to submit it.

For example, if you wait for the first few weeks of school to go by, you can update your positions in your various school clubs or activities (often leaders are elected or chosen at the beginning of the school year). Or you can add your new and better test scores. Beyond updating, you might decide that you want to switch out or modify your essays. Your first application is, after all, your first. Your college application essay writing skills will improve as you go along, and you’ll also have more essays to choose from as you answer more questions. So holding on to that first application gives you an opportunity to take advantage of your own subsequent efforts, and that’s to your benefit.

Finalizing your first application is a significant milestone on this journey. So once you’ve done it, take a little bit of time to savor your accomplishment. It will give you energy and motivation to keep going!

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley, August 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application, 52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.