November is one of the most challenging times to be a high school counselor. With so many students applying to colleges that have early deadlines, it can be impossible to get all of their transcripts sent on time—so, of course, you tell the students that if they are applying to a college with a November 1 deadline, they have to tell you this by October 15.
It would be great if this works, but it doesn’t. There are those students who will never, ever understand that applying to college is a team activity. As far as they are concerned, if they wake up on Halloween and decided to apply to a college with a November 1 deadline, there’s no reason they could possibly think of that would prevent you from submitting their transcript, along with a personalized letter espousing their talents. After all, they reason—they gave you a day’s notice!
What’s even worse is when these very same tardy students come back into your office and say “I just checked my application portal, and it says you never sent my transcript!” Try as you may, the student just won’t believe it when you try to point out that the college has just received 3,000 transcripts in the last three days, so they haven’t had a chance to file them all yet. This is also a perfect time to point out why you set an October 15 deadline for November 1 applications, but they won’t understand that either. In fact, that likely only increases the chances of their parents calling wanting to know why you didn’t send the transcript, and why you yelled at their child.
There’s only so much you can do to try and keep students organized, and the key is to be organized yourself. Once you figure out how much November 1 stress you can handle, take these steps to implement your plan:
Start early There are tons of students who won’t pay attention to any reminders, but there are many who will. Since every obedient student makes your job that much easier, set up a calendar of college application due dates and share it with students and their families as juniors. Announce it at parent programs, put it in the college handbook, text it, post it on your Website, remind students if you meet with them individually. Ample coverage is your best defense for any student or parent who says they were never told. Remind them there’s a difference between not knowing, and never being told.
Give them something to do No matter what your best plans, there will always be a student applying late, or a college erroneously saying they are missing something. Reading a “we don’t have it” email from a college is a pretty helpless feeling—so give your students help. Every time you talk about college deadlines, tell them that colleges make mistakes, and sometimes claim to be missing things they have. If you get a notice, call the college, and have them double check. There’s a good chance one part of the computer wasn’t talking to the other part of the computer, and it’s there.
Give them something else to do If the college insists something is missing, you also want to empower your students to solve the problem. Give them a process—“Email me, call me, contact the department secretary”—and when they come in with a problem, make them follow it. Knowing something can be done is good; knowing what to do is better, and will make for an easier time for everyone.