“Start your college applications over the summer.”
It’s one of the most common pieces of college application advice. I’ve preached it repeatedly here. It’s what we advise all of our Collegewise students to do. And when done right, it almost always leads to a less stressful, more successful college application process.
But that advice can actually exacerbate admissions-related stress.
There’s enough pressure surrounding college admissions. There are plenty of reminders that the process is more complex and confusing and competitive than it was when parents applied to college. Now here’s yet another ask of kids, yet another scenario where they’re forced to choose between keeping up with or falling behind the competition. How can counselors who espouse college admissions sanity and perspective turn around and recommend that kids start sooner than the majority of other applicants will (or would even want to)?
Because there’s a different way to view that advice: Make it easier on yourself, not harder.
You’ll almost certainly have more available time and energy during the summer months than you will during the fall of your senior year. In early September, you’ll have your classes, assignments, activities and a host of other commitments. Your window of available hours each day and week to spend working on college applications will narrow considerably. And the deadlines will already be encroaching, particularly if you intend on applying to any early application programs. To start early is to make it easier on yourself.
Nobody is saying that you have to finish all your applications before you start school in the fall (unless you’re applying to rolling admissions schools, which are explained here). Some applications won’t even be available by then. But applying to college can be a big project. And like just about all big projects, the stress and sense of the workload can be reduced considerably when you give yourself more time to complete them. Starting early gives you that advantage.
So when your counselor, your parent, or anybody else advises you to start your applications early, resist the completely understandable urge to tell them to back off. It’s your summer and you do have every right to enjoy it. But try to reframe that piece of advice from one that pressures you to start early to one that encourages you to take the easier route.
Starting early doesn’t just help you submit better applications with less stress. It’s also the easier way to do things.