It truly seems unfair that many colleges have January 1 application deadlines. In fact, many schools have pushed these deadlines to January 5 or January 15 in order to give students a break from having applications due on New Years Day. But even so, for students with deadlines in December, January, or even February, the holidays can be a challenging time of juggling family obligations, schoolwork, and college applications. The good news is that there are things you can do to make this time a little bit easier and less stressful.
1. Set goals and deadlines
Take out a calendar, perhaps a paper one (gasp!) and pick a target submit date (preferably a few days, if not weeks, before the actual deadline). Then backtrack from that date and set goals. For instance, have essays completely done one week before your intended deadline, have essay drafts done two weeks before intended deadline, and have the majority of the application filled out three weeks before the deadline. Set a date to send test scores and to meet with your high school to ensure transcripts and recommendations are sent out in time. Setting deadlines for yourself can help keep you on track.
2. Double-duty thank you notes
The holidays are a great time to remember and thank the significant people in your life. So keep it simple for yourself and use this time to thank the people who have helped you with your college applications as well. Give a nice holiday card to teachers, counselors, friends, even parents, to thank them for their support and hard work on your behalf.
3. Be courteous enough to ask
Don’t just assume that teachers, counselors, etc will be able to help you last minute on your applications, especially those due around the holidays. These people have family and personal obligations as well. Be courteous enough to send an email well in advance and ask them what their availability will be to help over the holidays. You can be honest and say something like, “I am very sorry, but I waited until the last minute to complete this essay and I would be thankful if you could review it. I understand the holidays are busy, so please let me know your availability or when I should get it to you by.” You will find that people are much more willing to help if you are sensitive to their personal needs as well.
As you can probably tell, the short answer to surviving college applications over the holidays is… plan in advance! Don’t wait until the last minute. But, if you are the type who waits until the last second, help yourself out by doing the three things listed above and you will be glad that you did!