Podcast: Sheila Tactical: Now That Early Apps Are Done

In this episode, I talk about what to do now that early college applications are behind us. Uncover essential post-early-admission steps and strategic insights to navigate your next move. Don’t miss this expert advice on the college admissions journey!


Sheila Akbar: 

Once you have a clearer idea of what are the things you need to get done, in the time you have left, you have a better sense of can you rise to that challenge or not? Seniors are under a lot of pressure. But hopefully now that the early application deadline has passed for most schools that offer early action or early decision, some of that pressure has started to wane, or at least we have a temporary break from that pressure. So I wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate all of you for all of your hard work, and encourage you to step back, take a breather, find some balance in your life, rejuvenate, and then preview a little bit of what’s coming next. So that you can navigate your regular decision applications, or any remaining applications with as much ease as possible. Now, not everybody applies early to a college, that’s fine. If you didn’t, for those of you who are not seniors, or don’t have a senior at home this year. And maybe you’re thinking about what’s coming up for you. You should know that early applications do have higher acceptance rates than regular applications. We’ll do another episode really digging into the whys and all of the data. But you should know that there are essentially two different early pathways, there’s early action, which means you submit your application materials early. And you hear back from the college earlier than you would with regular decision. And there’s no commitment to attend that university. If you do get in early, it’s just a way to show your increased interest for that school. The other pathway is early decision where there is a binding commitment you apply early you find out early if you get in usually even earlier than you would find out if you just did early action. And there is a binding commitment. If you get in you are committing to attending that college. Now, there are a lot of details to know about each of those. And there are versions of these things like restricted early action or single choice early action. But for the purposes of today’s conversation, just know there are a couple of different choices there. And the acceptance rates are higher. What you want to know is that there are many reasons those acceptance rates are higher number one legacies and recruited athletes apply early to the schools that they are legacies at or being recruited at. So that’s going to change those numbers. The other thing that changes those numbers is that students who are ready by November first with all of their application materials, usually are your most diligent, organized, well prepared students who also come from families that have the resources for them to be well prepared and have everything polished and ready to go by November 1. And we all know that college acceptances skewed towards the wealthy. And this is one of the reasons why. And so those acceptance rates are going to be higher in the early rounds, I do encourage all of my students, if you can get your materials ready, that’s probably a good idea for you. And it’s a way to manage your time as well. You don’t want your college applications taking up the whole rest of the year, sometimes a deadline can help you work harder towards them. Now that said, if your materials are just okay, by November 1, actually, you probably do want to wait to regular decision, you might have a better chance with your best work in your application. That’s a really important thing. It’s not just oh submitted early, and that helps you, it’s you’ve got to put your best work forward in the early application for it to actually work. Now, enough about what’s already passed. What I want to talk to you about is what comes next. And what I do with my students, if they have applied early somewhere, we want to take a little bit of a break not too long, because things are about to get crazy with the holidays upon us. So maybe seven to 10 days off where they’re not going to hear from me. I might have a conversation with parents so parents know what’s going on what’s coming up next. But I really want the students to be able to kind of have a break from thinking about all of this and reengage with the things that are really important for them in their extracurricular and school life and maybe just sleep and have some fun with friends. I think it’s super important. They’ve worked very hard. So give them a little break. And then we talk about how are we going to move towards our regular decision applications. Now these are the deadlines that are January 1. Sometimes it’s January 5 or so. Somewhere around there. And what I like to do is think about getting our materials to maybe about 65 to 70% of the way complete, before we hear back from our early schools. So early decision, schools usually release their notifications sometime in the second week of December. And what you don’t want to happen is to hear bad news from early decision, and then have to start from scratch on a whole host of other applications. Not only are you mending the wound of not getting into the school that you really loved, but you have a whole lot of work to do in maybe 10 or 15 days before the applications are due. And if you’re early school didn’t work out in your favor. That might mean you need to recalibrate your college list a little bit. And we want to be able to do that with a clear head. So you need time and space to do that. So I encourage you to think about that, before the decision comes back, maybe have a contingency plan. Alright, if it goes, Well, hey, that’s great. That means you’re done. Right? Hopefully, you’re just gonna go to that school, and you’re not even going to submit any other applications. If you get rejected from that school, maybe it means you have to have a list of schools that are slightly less competitive, that are your regular decision schools, or if you’re planning on doing an early decision to because there’s a second round of EDI at many colleges, maybe that’s a slightly less selective of a list, then whatever your early decision was. The third option for early applications, whether it’s early decision, or early action, is a deferral, which means they think you can handle the work at the school, right? There’s nothing in your application. To them, that is a deal breaker. They’re not saying okay, the student couldn’t possibly fit at our school. But they’re also maybe not so sure yet that they’re ready to admit you. And so they put you into the regular decision pile. And that might be disappointing in some ways, right? You didn’t get in and you have to continue the process. But I do encourage my students to see the silver lining, that is okay, well, they didn’t reject me, that must mean, there’s something that they kind of liked. You want to have a contingency plan for what happens if you get deferred, we will come back to this in early December. So I’ll tell you what to do about your deferral. Now, okay, so if you get deferred, maybe you don’t need to change your college list, right? It’s neither positive nor negative in this case. But if you get deferred from a school that you thought was a safety, hey, that’s telling you something, if you get rejected from a school that you thought was a safety or a target, that’s telling you something, right, if you get in to an early action school that was a safety or a target, maybe that gives you more confidence in the regular decision only apply to reach schools, because you’re happy with a target school or a safety school on your list, you’ll just go there, if you don’t get into one of these reach schools. So there’s a lot to kind of model out for your college list. So that’s one thing that you need to do. The other thing you need to do is get those essays together. And the first thing to do is take stock of everything that you’ve written thus far for your early applications. And take a look at the supplemental essay questions if there are any, for any school that’s on your regular decision list, and start to map out where you might be able to reuse some materials. Now this can be tricky. And it does have to be nuanced, because you’re not going to just copy and paste one essay into another school. The supplemental essays are meant to really articulate your unique fit with each university. So they will be different, and they should be different. But at the same time, if something is so true to who you are, for example, if you’ve done a lot of community service, and that community engagement is so central to who you are and what you want to do that, you know, whatever college you go to, you are going to find opportunities to have the same kind of community engagement. Well, then whatever you say about your community engagement to one school should be quite similar to what you say about your community engagement to another, right? Maybe you’re applying early to a school like University of Miami, and you mentioned all these specific community engagement programs that you want to get involved in. Well, you can use that essay as a sort of template for when another college asks you about, you know, how do you want to get involved on campus or something like that, but you’re going to do the research to figure out the specific opportunities at that school for you to continue to that community engagement. So it’s not just a copy, paste, it’s more like, well, this is my reference, this is a skeletal structure, maybe there’s some sentences here that I can totally reuse. But then we really need to make sure we’re doing the work to figure out the specifics of that college, their philosophy, the opportunities, the classes, the professor’s, what have you, so that you can make that essay work for another school. So you’re going to map all this out with all of your new supplemental essays and your existing material. And then I want you to get really clear on the new material that you’re going to have to write totally from scratch, you’ve never written about it before. And keep in mind that with your regular decision schools, some of those supplemental essays may not overlap with your early schools, but they may overlap with other regular decision schools. And I encourage you to look at that, because it can reduce the number of new essays you have to write from 15 to maybe five, which, you know, five is still a lot, but I would we rather be writing five from scratch than 15. So map that out as well, the overlaps in your regular decision applications. And then you’ve got to plot out your writing plan. And again, we only need to get to, like I said, 65 to 70% of the way complete because hopefully your early schools go in your direction, and then you’re done. And you don’t feel like you wasted all this time preparing these beautiful application materials for schools, you’re never actually going to submit the application to, but you’re also not starting from scratch with a broken heart. And you’re not scrambling to get all this done at the last minute. Hopefully, even if your early applications don’t go in your direction, you can take a day or two to process that decision, whatever it may be. And then you can come to these materials that are almost all the way there and put the finishing touches on them in those last two weeks or so before your regular decision deadlines. Okay, so those are really the two big things, think through the contingencies or changes to your college list based on the feedback you’re getting from your early schools. And also map out all of the essay material that you will be able to reuse or have to write from scratch, and then start writing that. And I do encourage you to use a tool to organize all of this. I like using a spreadsheet. Some people like using a Google Doc, some people like having a handwritten list, but don’t keep it in your head. Make sure it’s really clear so that every time you sit down to do this, you don’t have to do that work of figuring out Well, where am I and what am I using here and all of this, one of the I think most satisfying parts of this process is where you do get to use some material you’ve already written and you get to use it again, the first step of that process is actually pasting in the original essay into a new document. And then just highlighting, alright, these are all the things I’m going to need to research and change. And if there are things you need to change about the framing, or the overall organization, you can make those comments without having to think about how do I solve this problem. So think about it this way is you’re actually just creating a to do list or you’re identifying the challenges that you need to solve. When you adapt an existing essay to the new school. Doing that work is so valuable, that planning, it will help save you so much time and help you feel confident. Okay, I can do this. I know what I need to change. Actually, I just had a student who looking towards early application deadlines on November 1, she was planning to apply to UT Austin. And as we were approaching deadlines, she was not able to make any progress on those essays. And I think she just felt a little stuck. And when I asked her about it, like what’s going on with these, she was like, I think I’m just not going to be able to apply early. And I was like, well, that’s that’s a shame. You really love these programs there. And we discussed how it was such a great fit for you. Why don’t we take a look at this together and model out what actually needs to happen for you to finish these essays. And so we spent about 10 minutes talking about, alright, this essay couldn’t be the start of this new essay, you have to write. So we made a bullet pointed list of like what we need to add or change. And then this other essay could fit here. But you know, here are the lines, the specific lines we’re going to have to work on to find you know, the opportunities at Texas that we want to highlight. We just literally highlighted in yellow, where those words and phrases were that we need to change. And when we were done with that conversation, she was like, oh yeah, this is gonna be a piece of cake. Once you have a clear idea of what are the things you need to get done in the time you have left do you have a better sense of can you rise to that challenge or not. And so instead of just taking the school off her list entirely for the early round, she was able to say, I’m going to dedicate this much time on Saturday, this much time on Sunday, Monday, we’ll do our final polishing. And we’re ready to submit before the deadline, and it gave her a plan of attack. So that’s what I want you to have in place as you embark on your regular decision application. So spend that time, it’s very satisfying, because it’s like, oh, it sounded like so much work. But it’s actually not that much work. And now I have a little punch list. So I can go through and get stuff done. And then you’re just going to tackle a couple of those items a week, as we move towards regular decision. It’s also a great way to distract yourself from that horrible waiting game of wondering what’s going to happen with early decision or what’s going to happen with early action, you’re just waiting for them to tell you if you got in or not. Well make use of that time productively by doing this work on your regular decision applications. And then, if you find that getting to the finish line for early action was just so difficult, and you wish you had a sounding board or someone who could tell me if I’m doing it right. Well, there are lots of people who can help you with this. There are community based organizations, there are organizations that just work on essay edits, and they do them ethically, they’re not going to rewrite something for you and falsify something for you, they’re going to help you understand how to become a better writer. There are former admissions officers and independent educational consultants that will give you their wisdom and years of experience, to help you understand how you can really articulate why you’re a match for any of these particular universities that you’re applying to. There are lots of people that can help mean, somebody in your school, I’m sure can help you, a family friend, a mentor, and advisor from an organization, people are invested in your success. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. And then finally, I understand that not everybody applies early. Not everybody wants to apply early, some people want to see all their choices before they make a decision. And not everybody is able to apply. So if that’s the case, a lot of the advice that I’ve shared with you is not going to be relevant, you’re not going to have material you’ve already written that you can reuse. But the idea of mapping everything out and seeing where those essays overlap is still very relevant. You want to get a really clear picture of what you need to get done between now and the deadlines. Okay, well, I hope that that’s helpful. And of course, I’m always here to help. I’m happy to give people my opinion on things are advised of a course of action. So you can always reach out to me and follow me on LinkedIn. I’m going to be talking a lot about this after earlies are done. The other thing I want to mention is parents of juniors. If you’re hearing all this at starting to feel your heart rate rise, we’ll get ahead of it, please get ahead of it. Make sure you’re working on a college list right now. So that next spring, you can already be starting to think about, okay, what are the stories that we can tell here, and what’s the help that we can enlist for this or that and not be in a crunch this time next year, I’m also doing a series of boot camps. The one that’s happening right now we just started a couple of days ago is for parents of juniors. And we’re going to do another one of these in the coming months. And I’m going to be adding on other grade levels as well. So that you as a parent, understand what’s going to be expected of your child and how you can help coach them through it. So that, you know you guys can be on the same page about decisions and the timeline and all of the things that are important. So join my community on circle. You can learn more about that there. And then of course, access really great, detailed and helpful information about writing essays about planning for early action or early decision, the strategies that are involved there and mapping out a writing timeline. Alright, hope to see you all over there and we’ll talk again soon

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