Kieron graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2000 with a Bachelors degree in Psychology.
Applying for college is an exciting but stressful time for many students. For many, it is the culmination of four years of hard work in high school. For others, it is another step towards their goal of working in a particular profession. However, for procrastinators, preparing for college can be the ultimate test of survival.
The list of things that must be done before a college even decides if you are a good fit is pretty long. They have to evaluate your application, review your test scores, read through your recommendations, and decide if you qualify for financial aid. Each of these items has its own deadline that must be met, and failure to do so could result in you missing out on the college of your choice.
1. Colleges Have Admissions Deadlines
One big reason for not waiting until the last minute to plan for college is that most schools have an admissions deadline. This means that in order to be considered for admission into the college for the upcoming semester, your application and supporting materials must be received by a certain date. Delaying your planning increases the chance that you will miss the deadline and have to re-apply for the next semester or possibly the next school year.
There are also colleges that accept applications on a rolling basis. This means that there is no firm admission deadline. The schools evaluate applications as they come in, and continue to issue acceptances until the incoming class is full.
The danger of waiting too long to apply to these types of schools is that you do not know how many acceptances the college has already issued. By procrastinating, you could end up in a situation where a school has already accepted its maximum number of students for the semester. Therefore, even without a firm deadline, you could still end up missing out on the college of your choice.
2. Letters of Recommendation Take Time
During the admissions process, colleges need as much information as possible in order to evaluate all of their potential students. One way they accomplish this is by requesting letters of recommendation written by teachers, family members, or community leaders. The recommendations often give admission counselors a better idea of who each applicant is, and what their character is like.
Recommendations can also be a sore spot for students who wait too late to apply to school. The difficulty is that you will definitely not be the only student needing a recommendation to submit with your application. Not only does it take time to select who you want to write your letter, but that person may also have to write letters for other students.
Starting your planning process early will allow you to get the proper recommendation forms to the person you ask, and give them the time they need in order to write a good letter for you.
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3. Standardized Tests Have Limited Seating
Another means of comparing applicants is to compare standardized test scores from exams like the SAT and ACT. These tests are set up to determine a person's aptitude for learning at the college level. Normally they are scheduled a few times a year at specific testing locations across the country.
When comes to standardized testing, procrastination can be dangerous for two major reasons. The first is that the tests are not easy to prepare for. Although they are not designed so that you can cram all of the information into your head, there are still review materials available that can help with vocabulary and math strategies. Putting off preparation for the test increases the chance that your test performance may struggle, and your scores may suffer as well.
The second issue is that there are a limited number of seats available to take the test at a given location. Waiting until the last minute to sign up for the test puts you at risk of either having to travel a long distance to the next available testing site or not being able to take the test at all. Depending on whether or not there is an alternate testing date available, you could end up in a situation where the next test date falls after your admissions deadline.
4. Financial Aid Gets Used Quickly
Another reason that students should act quickly when preparing for college is that financial aid opportunities are limited. Although there are a vast number of scholarships and loans available to students, you must consider how many people are applying for them every year. Some scholarship competitions are open not only to incoming freshmen but also to upperclassmen, and certain loan programs only allow schools to give out a set amount of loan funding every year.
Just like the application deadline mentioned above, schools often have a cut off date with regards to financial aid applications as well. The financial aid application is usually necessary to find out if a student qualifies for any aid-based loans, grants, or scholarships. Lack of preparation could result in you missing this deadline and having to come up with alternative ways to fund your college education.
These deadlines also come into play with outside scholarship programs. They usually set due dates for all materials to be submitted for consideration. Waiting too late could impact your ability to get the scholarship application completed in time. As a result, you could end up giving away a chance at free money towards your college tuition.
5. Choosing a College Is a Big Decision
Selecting the right college is not as easy as it may sound. You have to consider the location, price, academic programs, and overall level of comfort. Basically, it is not a choice that should be made in a rush. Procrastinating during the early part of the college planning process will only take away important time that you need to make this decision.
In many cases, students need time to research what types of majors and academic programs are available at certain schools. They may also want to take a chance to schedule a campus visit in order to get a better feel for a potential college. By waiting too late to address those issues, you risk the chance of ending up at a college you do not enjoy and does not have the programs you are interested in studying.
Rather than holding off and making a rush decision, you should allow yourself time to get as much information as possible before making one of the biggest decisions of your life. Take time to get organized, schedule tests and campus visits, ask for recommendations, and apply for financial aid in advance of all deadlines. Not only will you enjoy the admissions process more, but your stress level will be more manageable as well.