The end of the calendar year marks the final application deadline at many selective colleges and universities. Deadlines to other schools follow soon thereafter. Vienna, Va.-based AdmissionsConsultants, Inc., offers high school seniors these last-minute tips to keep the application process on track and to maximize their admissions chances:

  • Submit applications ahead of the final deadlines. Application websites are invariably swamped by last-minute applicants on deadline day, and even the hardiest websites can slow down and even crash under the strain. Spare yourself a lot of year-end anxiety by hitting the ‘submit’ button for your online applications a few days before the final deadline.
  • Make sure your applications are complete. Even online applications include crucial ‘off-line’ components, like high school reports, letters of reference and standardized-test scores. Make sure those items get submitted.
  • Replace text message lingo with standard written English in your online applications. Some admissions officers feel the online format leads students to be too casual in their responses, especially in replies to short-answer questions. That can send the wrong message. Online applicants should be sure to complete every item on their forms as thoroughly and seriously as they would if they were writing out responses on paper.
  • Beware of e-mail pitfalls. First, check your e-mail address for appropriateness. No one wants SeniorSlacker17 at their school. An off-putting e-mail address may be the one small thing that tips an admissions decision by raising questions about the applicant’s judgment or maturity.If in doubt, set up a generic firstname.lastname@domainname account for your college correspondence. Make sure you check the account regularly or have it automatically forward messages to your regular e-mail account.AdmissionsConsultants’ Dr. Cleo Leung, also reminds applicants to check their junk or spam folders. “There’s nothing worse than finding out that your notification went straight into your spam folder!” she says.
  • Make sure your application references the school it’s being sent to. Few things can turn off an admissions committee more than coming across a line in an essay that indicates the applicant is making the same exact heartfelt case for admission to another school.Better yet, make sure that each application clearly expresses your reasons for wanting to attend the particular school you are sending it to.”Every school wants to admit a student who genuinely wants to attend that particular school – not just for the name that the school may carry, but for the educational opportunities and resources that the school offers,” notes Dr. Leung. “Students really need to take the time to do the research to find out what makes the school that they are applying to special and unique – for them. And then they need to mention these things in their applications.”

Although high school juniors have another year before facing college application deadlines, it’s not too early for them to be working on their college plans. In fact, planning ahead is the best strategy for applicants to maintain some sense of control over the college admissions process.

Tasks that lie ahead include taking the ACT or SAT (and, for many applicants, two or more SAT Subject Tests); choosing challenging senior-year courses and extracurricular activities; researching schools and compiling a list of target schools. (For more detailed information, see our College Admissions Timeline.)

Dr. Leung says now is a good time for juniors to start keeping written notes about activities and experiences they may want to draw on in preparing their college applications. “I’ve been telling juniors, and younger students, to keep a journal of noteworthy activities and events,” she says. “It’s a lot easier to capture the details when the event actual occurs, rather than months later when they are struggling to remember the details.”

But it’s just as important, she emphasizes, for students to keep things in perspective. “Students should enjoy their high-school experience, even though they are taking advanced classes, prepping for standardized tests and participating in extracurriculars,” she says. “I think it’s easy for students to burn out too early in their education when really, education is a lifelong process. Each stage of life has something valuable to offer. Young people should definitely be thinking about their future, but also making sure that they are enjoying their present.”

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