Got College Application Stress Already?

Part 3: College Visits with My Son: Applications Begin

When did fall open house season become college application season?

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University

Is it just me or have other students and parents visiting colleges this fall been picking up on the message that high school seniors should apply early to college–even to the non-binding (a.k.a “early action”) programs?

The benefits of applying early varied among the institutions we visited. Overall, the perks included at least one of the following:

  • having the college application fee waived if the application is submitted early
  • consideration for scholarships available only to early applicants
  • a way to get a jump on the competition
  • early notification regarding admissions

Does that make it smart to apply early?

I apologize in advance for the answer I’m going to give:

It depends–on a lot of things.

The College Board provides a good overview of the differences between early decision and early action and what factors to consider before you apply. There are pros and cons and it’s important to understand the difference between Early Action (EA) and Early Decision (ED).

For example, one of the drawbacks listed on the College Board website states:

Reduced financial aid opportunities: Students who apply under ED plans receive offers of admission and financial aid simultaneously and so will not be able to compare financial aid offers from other colleges. For students who absolutely need financial aid, applying early may be a risky option. – Read more at The College Board

Obviously, if cost is an important factor, and you need to compare financial aid offers, then ED may not be the best option.

Then, there’s the stress of applying early…

It’s November and, even though my son is not applying early decision to any college, the stress of applying to colleges is here. Why? Two reasons: college application week and onsite application review.

Our state (Virginia) has declared Virginia College Application Week to be November 14 – 18, 2016.

During Virginia College Application Week students attending public high schools in Virginia are encouraged to apply to college — any college — two-year or four-year, public or private — and the application fees are covered for up to three colleges. This a great way to save some money on application fees even if you do have to be ready earlier than regular college application deadlines dictate, but you do have to be ready to take advantage of this.

At my son’s high school, Blacksburg High School (BHS), college application week came early to accommodate the onsite application review program conducted by both Virginia Tech and Radford University.

BHS students who applied during the days allocated as College Application Week or who apply before the cutoff date specified by BHS, will find out in December if they were accepted to one or both of these institutions.

Just breathe

As a parent, I’m trying not to be pushy or nag about finishing essays and personal statements, or staying on top of application deadlines and so far, so good (it helps that, at BHS, we have a fantastic guidance department and dedicated teachers).

I know it’s important that my student work through the process of completing college applications and meeting deadlines. It’s good practice for college — there will be plenty of deadlines to meet once he’s a college student.

Wendy Davis-Gaines, in Mind Over College Prep Matters, reminds us to take time to breathe and that “It’s easier to prioritize and make tough decisions when calm…” She’s right of course, and there’s still plenty of time to complete college applications before the deadline.

Tweet to me @collegevisit or @zkellyq, or post on our Facebook page, and let us know how college application season is going for you! Feel free to ask questions — we’re happy to help!


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