Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Weekend Deadlines? Yeah—About That…

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

This blog recently addressed a long-standing counselor beef—the student submits an application on Thursday, then gets an email on Friday saying the high school hasn’t sent the transcript. A highly respected enrollment manager suggested that maybe it was time to stop venting and contact the colleges directly—and respectfully—to relate the effect this was having on students. I put together a model letter, hoping that nine more of you would (ideally) find the time to craft and send something similar, or (more likely) copy my letter and send it to the colleges, too. Either way, it’s better than wishing.

Now that your first endeavor in diplomatic college reform is over, I’m hoping you’ll give it one more try, with an issue that hurts students just as much. I’ll cut right to the chase with the sample letter:

Dear Mary (again, use their name. Anything addressed to “Dear Director” gets tossed):

I’m writing to ask you to make a small change to your current application deadlines. While some of these dates have been used for years—November 1, January 1, and May 1—they often cause some unintended damage to the ability of students to respond on the basis of thoughtful advice, something that benefits no one.

The challenge with most of these dates is when they occur on a weekend. Last year, November 1, November 15, and May 1 all occurred on Sunday, where students were expected to submit documents or make decisions without access to college advice the day of the deadline—or, in this case, the day before as well. The mild bedlam that occurs in a high school on an application deadline day is hard to describe, but it can lead to some anxious students in our offices, and some very anxious parents on our phone lines.

I am a big advocate of students using the college application process to assume new levels of responsibility, and support the notion that there’s only so much help one can offer. At the same time, this is the first time many of them have had to take a complex task and complete the individual portions in a timely fashion. If we were talking turning in one paper, that would be one thing. There’s a little more than that to a college application.

This challenge could be met—and students’ minds would be set at ease—if all deadlines were set to a particular day—the first Tuesday in November (replacing November 1), the third Tuesday in November (replacing November 15), the second Tuesday in January (replacing January 1), the first Tuesday in May (replacing May 1). This is especially true for students who attend high schools where counselor caseloads are large, often involving students who need more college help. 

Deadlines that give students the chance they deserve to get the help they need will only increase the quality and quantity of applications. Just ask Georgia Tech, who made this move a few years back and saw increased numbers as a result.

Regarding January 1, high schools are typically closed for an entire week before this deadline, and many are closed days after. This really puts students at a huge disadvantage, and college admissions offices aren’t even open that day. A “second Tuesday” deadline gives students access to the support they need to submit a quality application with as little stress as possible.

I’d be happy to discuss this with you in greater detail, but I hope you can see how these changes could be a huge help, especially to the students who most need it. You can reach me at…


1 comment:

  1. I am cheering right now for this letter! I am all about efficiency, and although emailing it directly to each college seems personal and a better way to go, I rarely get time for lunch most days. Is this something that we can direct to college admissions through their professional organizations? Like a one and done from each of us willing to do this? I have been salty about January 1 deadlines since 2005. That's a long time to hold a grudge. LOL