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College Application Paralysis

“I don’t know where to start…”

We hear this from seniors as they begin the school year and college applications are staring them in the face.  This process can be overwhelming – researching colleges, creating a college list without feeling like you are inadvertently chopping off the *perfect* school, making sure it’s is balanced (and being HAPPY with the “safe” schools, because they may end up at the top of the list in the end!), starting applications, writing and revising essays, having other people read them, trashing them and starting over, finalizing and submitting.  And don’t forget about sending test scores and asking for teacher recommendations!

All of this on top of a challenging senior year schedule.  It’s daunting.

And sometimes when a teenager encounters a project that seems daunting, they go into paralysis mode.  Nothing gets done until the last minute, and then, it doesn’t get done as well as it could have been, had there been enough time.

And sometimes, parents intervene at this point to help things get done before the last minute.  That’s when the eyes start to roll more than usual, and the tension in your household ratchets up.

It’s early September.  The three largest online college applications are now open (the Common Application, the Coalition Application and the UC app).  The absolute earliest college deadline is October 15 – and we can only find two colleges with that early deadline (Georgia Tech and UNC-Chapel Hill – both Early Action deadlines).  Most colleges have deadlines between November and January.  So planning it all out now – step by step – is the best way to head off that paralysis and reduce the stress.

We advise students to focus on just one thing at a regularly-scheduled time each week between now and November.  Just one.  Pick one thing – first draft of an essay, sending test scores, asking teachers for recommendations.  There’s no need for them to feel like they HAVE to do it ALL RIGHT NOW!  One of our colleagues in Texas also advises this “bite-sized” approach in an article for her local newspaper.

“I don’t know where to start…..”

Our best advice:  Just start.  Don’t feel like you have to complete every essay, every application, everything there is to do, in one sitting.  Take a little bit of time each week to get done all of the tasks that need to be completed.

Bonus advice:  See if there are any schools on your list that do not require an essay, or that just require a short one on any topic you want, and that have a simple application process.  A few examples:  University of Iowa, University of Oregon, Washington State, University of Arizona.  It will take you about a half hour to complete each of these, and you may get a response quickly!  Two of Magellan’s clients have already been admitted to University of Iowa, and one to University of Arizona.  With a little bit of focus and determination, you could have a college acceptance too – soon!

If you need a little bit more hands-on help for your high school senior, feel free to get in touch.

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