Wednesday, November 20, 2013

College Applications and Thanksgiving

By:  Patrick O'Connor  Ph.D

This holiday season brings plenty of good news for high school seniors. Thanksgiving is as late as it possibly can be, creating one more week to complete college applications before the holidays begin. This also gives you one more week to hear back from colleges that have your completed applications, increasing the chances you can share good news with the relatives you see once a year.

But a late Turkey Day date also brings a few challenges.  If you’re thinking you’ll have a few days after Thanksgiving to submit college applications with a December 1 deadline, look again.  December 1st is the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, so it’s easy to see there won’t be much time to do quality application work on a holiday weekend.

In addition, one more week before Thanksgiving gives you one less week after Thanksgiving—calendars can be harsh that way.  This means any plans you have to apply “later” to colleges with a January 1 deadline may be counting on time you really won’t have, even if you work through the night before Christmas or the eight days of Hanukah.

The key to good college applications is the same as the key to good holidays—plan ahead.  Follow these steps, and you’ll make sure the only turkey you deal with is the one you eat on Thanksgiving, not the last-minute college essay you have to send in on a tight deadline.

Count your colleges and your blessings. Start by writing down the number of college applications you still have to complete.  Now, organize them by due date—not by the number of essays they require—and re-write the list in that order.

If you have eight or fewer applications to complete, you’re in great shape. Most students can complete an application in two hours, especially if the basic part of The Common Application is now complete.  If you set aside a two hour block every Saturday and Sunday between now and December Break, you’ll find you have time to do homework and activities during the school week, give yourself ample time to write quality college essays on the weekends, and…

Take Thanksgiving Weekend Off.  Completely.  Think about everything you did last Thanksgiving—parade, football, shopping, listening to Uncle Mike talk about how LBJ is the best president ever. All of that’s going to happen this year—and you don’t want to miss a minute of it.

If family gets to be a little too much (hey, it happens) you’ll want to plan on some quality screen time, or friend time, or taking-a-breath-from-three-AP-classes time.  All of this is perfectly understandable, and perfectly healthy—and this break will actually help your college applications.  If you complete a few applications before Thanksgiving, then take off one weekend,  you’ll regain your focus when you start again the weekend ofDecember 7th,  and write better essays than you would if you were trying to “squeeze in” some writing time during Thanksgiving.  Believe me—this works.

Cut Your Relatives Some Slack.  They’ll sigh when they find out you haven’t heard from your colleges, and look at you blankly when you name a school they’ve never heard of.  They don’t doubt you—they love you—and they want to know you’ll be OK.  Show them you are OK, and college will be great—live in the moment, let college go for a weekend, and let Uncle Mike win the wishbone contest, while you tell him he’s just as strong as Lyndon Baines Johnson.  It’s all good. 

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