Early Action and Early Decision Deadlines are just around the corner. Is your application already submitted? If so, you are one of the lucky ones. Pat yourself on the back. For the rest of you, here are some steps for you to follow to get through the next 16 days. In particular, take a look at the categories below:

  • Letters of Recommendation
  •  Setting Up Your Common Application Account
  •  Transcripts
  •  College application essays.

If you approach this in stages you should be alright.

Stage 1: Relax and Breathe deeply.

Yes, it’s a stressful time but you can do this. Let everyone in the family know this is a priority so you are all on the same team. Get some rest, think positive thoughts, and be ready to focus.

Stage 2: Get Organized.

Set up your account on the Common Application portal if the school uses it. If not, set up the additional account. Read through the Common Application. Think through what needs to be done. Are you an athlete? If so, check on any additional requirements that you may need to fulfill if you are planning on playing sports during college. Likewise, if you plan to major in the arts you may need to provide a portfolio or audition tape. So be certain to check on that if that applies to you.

If your school requires standardized test scores,verify that the scores have been sent by either College Board or ACT. If they have not been sent, then request that the scores be sent in expedited fashion. You will have to pay more for this but you need to be certain that the scores are there by the deadline. Make a spreadsheet so that you can track what steps you have completed.

Stage 3: Get To Work.

Letters of Recommendation:

Confirm that those who said that they were writing your recommendation letters are on track to meet the deadline. Send an email to those individuals. In the email(s) thank the person for writing a letter on your behalf and remind them of the deadline that the letter is due. If you have not asked anyone to write you a letter of recommendation, then you need to ask people immediately (as in today!) to write a letter on your behalf. 

If you are using the Common Application portal, the letter writers may have issues with submitting the letters via the portal so check that. This can be done by an email to the writers in question.


If you are homeschooled and belong to a homeschool umbrella, verify that your transcript is being sent to the institution on time. If you do not belong to a homeschool umbrella, check that your transcript and course descriptions are ready for submission. If you also have transcript information from one or more brick and mortar schools, verify with the guidance counselor that your transcript will be sent.

College Application Essays:

 If you have not read the essay prompts, do that now. Also, check to see if there are any additional essays required by the school. If so, review those essay prompts as well. Avoid cliches. Make it personal.

Stage 4: Outline And Write.

Letters Of Recommendation:

 If you just requested letters of recommendation verify that the recommenders can access the Common Application portal or whatever portal the college/university uses. The tech support at Common Application can be very helpful. It is better to fix any problems sooner rather than later. A lot of people will be contacting them between October 30 and November 1. You do not want to be one of those people if you can avoid it.

College Application Essays:
  • Outline your essay(s).
  • Write your first draft.
  • Step away from the first draft for a few hours.
  • Revisit the first draft and revise it as necessary.
  • Give your essay(s) to someone to read. This can be a teacher or a mentor. 

If you are a homeschooler, review your transcript(s) and course descriptions. You may have overlooked something. It is better to be safe than sorry. Verify that all transcripts are being sent if you did not do that earlier.

Stage 5: Write those college application essays again.

Remember: this is your top priority. The deadline is appoaching.

College Application Essays:
  • Review the comments that your reader(s) provided.
  • Revise the essay(s).
  • Submit the essay(s) to a reviewer again.


Verify that your transcript has been submitted.

 Letters Of Recommendation:

Verify that your letters of recommendation have been uploaded. You may need to send a reminder letter to your recommenders if they have not been submitted. Life happens – an unexpected hospitalization, an accident, anything. This is not to be pessimistic but realistic. Again, it is better to be on the safe side. 

Stage 6: It’s Crunch Time. Get It Done.

At this point, you have less than a week until the application is due.

College Application Essays:
  • Review the comments that your reader(s) provided.
  • Write the final revision.
  • Proofread the essay for grammar and content. You do not want to say “that is why I want to attend Stanford” when you are applying to Princeton!
  • Submit the essay(s).

Verify that all transcripts have been uploaded.

Letters Of Recommendation:

Send a thank-you note to those who took the time to write a letter of recommendation for you.

Yay! You beat the deadline. Congratulations!! Just a few more things: 

· Make certain that you confirm receipt of your application. You should receive confirmation via the Common Application portal or email.

· Celebrate. You did it. Pat yourself on the back.

· Do not worry about the application. You gave it your best effort. It is out of your hands now. You still have the rest of your senior year to finish. Make it count

· If you receive an email stating that something is missing from your application, reply to the email immediately and resolve the matter.

Good Luck!

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