Application season sneaks up on more students than you’d think. Despite the talk of college that pervades your high school years, those years are also filled with life: commitments that may leave you scrambling at the last minute to get things ready for that next stage of your journey, after graduation.

Early Action and Early Decision options can add to this stress: while ED is binding, and EA allows for some flexibility, both options require you to have finished your consideration and preparation processes a good 2-3 months in advance of a Regular Decision applicant. So while your RD friends might still be drafting their Common App essays, you’ll need to have them at the final-draft stage; while they’ve got winter break to shore up loose ends, you might have gotten your decisions back by then. 

So, if you want to apply ED/EA, the best thing is to start early. 

Sometimes the best thing isn’t the realistic thing, though. If you’re struggling with last minute early apps, don’t panic! Read on for some pointers to get your senior fall out of crisis mode.

Make a Schedule, and STICK TO IT

Write it down, make a Google Calendar, set up iPhone reminders: whatever you have to do to stay on task to the letter, do it, and stick with it. Break the process up task by task: put the things that aren’t dependent solely on you first (test scores, recommendations, transcripts), and check them off the list. Then write your essay drafts, and try to give yourself at least a day between finishing a draft and going back to revise; if you’re really pressed, use that day to work on a different, ideally unrelated, project, maybe a paper for class. Be as productive as possible, but also keep a favorite show, hobby, or loose-leaf tea around as a reward for meeting your goals. It’ll help keep your motivation up!

Be Absolutely CERTAIN

A number of students get talked into the ED/EA process at the last minute. If it wasn’t your idea, and therefore you got a late start, revisit that decision, and make absolutely sure you’re applying ED/EA for reasons that make sense and that matter to you. It’s stressful, and involves a lot of hard work and prioritization on top of your schoolwork and extracurriculars—all in a very small span of time. Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, and with the right mentality. EA/ED is not a necessity, or a guarantee of admission. It has a lot of perks, and is a great path for many students, but remember: you can apply, and be admitted, without it.

Be Honest

In remembering that Regular Decision does exist, even if it’s not ideal for you: be honest with yourself about what you’ve produced in a short period of time for the ED/EA deadlines. Is it the best work you can put forth? Is it worthy of admission? Even if you think ED/EA is your best shot at getting in, be honest about whether what you have is the best you can do. It’s better to wait for the Regular Admission deadlines and submit a stellar application than to apply EA/ED with a mediocre rush job.

Need help getting those applications put together on time? Signet admissions experts can help!