Define your own “early”

A high school counselor shared a Tweet from one of his students today that addressed the “100 colleges” that had emailed her on August 1 to let her know the Common App was live. Her message to them: “I know it’s live. Please just let me be.”

I’ve definitely pounded the drum here about starting college applications early. Summer tends to be a much more relaxing time to do this work when compared to the fall when seniors are balancing classes, standardized tests, activities, etc. And our Collegewise offices are always abuzz in August with seniors getting an application leg up. In fact, many of them will enter their senior year with an acceptance (usually from a college with rolling admissions) in hand.

But there’s such a thing as too much early encouragement, especially when it just pushes the pressure earlier in the process.

For just about everything worth doing right, starting early tends to be better than starting too late. But we’re not talking about starting an Ironman triathlon here, where getting off to a slow start could doom you for the rest of the race. This isn’t urgent. Nothing bad is going to happen if you wait a little longer. Other students aren’t gaining an advantage that will be unrecoverable for you. Everything is going to be fine.

It’s still summer. There’s plenty of time left to enjoy yourself before the busy fall school season begins. Don’t treat this last month of summer like a sprint where you’re either ahead or behind of everyone else. Yes, I recommend you do some college application work before you head back to school. But what’s most important is that you don’t delay this work so long that the pressure of deadlines increases your anxiety and decreases the quality of the finished work.

So don’t let all this early encouragement leave you feeling like your house is on fire, as if every second you wait will leave you with more destruction and wreckage. College applications are important. But they are never urgent unless you procrastinate to the point where you have no choice but to hurry.

Don’t put it off. Start early. But you can define your own “early.”