What can you do after submitting your college applications to improve your chances of admission?
We have all been told at one point or another that patience is a virtue. No time exemplifies this adage better than the months that follow submitting your college applications. Initially, there is a huge relief for parents and students. Months (often years) have gone into that one moment; studying, taking standardized tests, visiting campus after campus, writing the very best essay. . . and then it all comes down to submit . . .and wait. That’s the hardest part.
Each November we experience somewhat of a post application lull here at our offices. Our students have done their due diligence and we’ve advised, guided, and prodded them through the process to application submission. But now what? Calls from parents will soon start coming in and the anxiety in their voices is clear. They wonder when they might hear from colleges and when (and if) financial aid decisions or merit awards will come in the mail. Unfortunately, there is no tried and true answer. Every school is different. However, there are several things you can – and should – do after clicking the submit button to improve your chances of admission.
- Follow Up: Once you have submitted your application, you should always contact the colleges to which you have applied to ask if your application is complete. I can’t tell you how often we hear that something did not make it, whether it is transcript from a guidance office, a letter of recommendation, a financial aid application, or SAT/ACT scores; quite a few things must come together to make your application complete. Don’t leave this to chance. It only takes a few minutes to follow up! And who should follow up? If you’ve worked with us at all, you know the answer is the student, not the parents! This is also a great opportunity to demonstrate your interest in each college. An email or phone call to the admissions representative for your region (hopefully, you have already connected with this person earlier in the process) shows that you are a responsible applicant and that you’re serious about attending.
- Do better in school! Some students don’t appreciate how performing well in their senior year can help them gain admission to their “stretch” schools. This is important whether your GPA is a 2.5 or a 3.9. All students should strive to improve, and college admissions officers will be watching. Most colleges will ask your high school to send your 1st and 2nd quarter transcript either as you apply or after you’ve completed your applications. And every college will review your final senior year grades, so make sure you continue to excel throughout your senior year. In all cases, an upward trajectory in your senior year GPA will help you gain admission to more colleges. It is up to you to make sure that your high grades are sent by your high school counselor to all schools to which you’ve applied.
- Make sure your test scores are the best they can be. If you have submitted your apps in October, should you try the SAT or ACT one more time in November or December? Why not? As long as you are not burnt out from testing, we suggest you take them one more time. Higher test scores will yield more admissions options and more scholarship dollars – This is the case even if you’ve applied to test optional colleges. If your scores are higher than the reported averages for each college, you may want to submit them. Even if you’ve applied under Early Action or Early Decision programs, taking the SAT or ACT one more time can increase scholarship or need based aid offers before final decisions are made.
- Know what you can afford. Because many private colleges now cost more than $70,000 per year, it is more critical than ever for students and parents to prepare for the huge financial commitment that lies just around the corner. Families should understand whether or not they qualify for need based aid. A qualified college admissions advisor can help in this regard. If you do qualify – or if you simply want access to federally backed student loans – you need to complete the financial aid forms. Most deadlines for need based aid are in November or December, but dates range widely from college to college. The worst scenario is that your student is admitted to the college of their dreams, but you must tell them you cannot afford it.
So even though patience is a virtue, post application diligence goes a long way to improve your chances for admission and college affordability.
Author: Dr. Dean Skarlis. Dean is the founder and president of The College Advisor of New York, Inc., a comprehensive college counseling practice.
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