college applications and high school students

When to Hit ‘Submit’: Finding the College Application Timing Sweet Spot

You can learn a lot about the advice parents give their teens about applying to college if you just go shopping.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing the summer sales racks in a women’s clothing store when I overheard two moms discussing college applications and their teens’ upcoming senior year of high school.


One mom’s teen had not yet gotten serious about looking at colleges, while the other mom said she made sure her son had already applied to all the colleges on his list. It was mid-August. High school classes in our area had just started. Pencils weren’t even warmed up yet. And, that valuable class on writing college application essays every high school English teacher holds hasn’t even been scheduled.

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I was a bit dismayed and saddened to think that this student’s applications were going to sit in a stack waiting to be processed and not even reviewed.

Application review times vary by college and university, by application type, and by deadline combined. Batch processing according to each institution’s specified schedule is how the reading of millions of college applications gets done efficiently each year by the more than 3,000 colleges in the US.

So, when should students submit college applications?

By the deadline that suits each student’s particular situation. If the university offers incentives for applying early, then by all means take advantage of these opportunities. But know that incentives, such as an application fee waiver, won’t happen in August, and maybe not even in the early fall.

If applying under the Early Decision or Early Action schedules meet your needs, then just follow the guidelines specified by that college or university.

It’s far better to be in tune with the colleges that interest you than to submit six months ahead of the application deadline and then be left to wonder why you’ve not heard anything.

For more on this topic, read The Huffington Post’s: The (Dis)advantage of Being First to Submit A College Application.

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