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5 Tips for Tackling College Application Season like a pro

It's officially October, and we all know what that means. Pumpkin Spice Lattes, scary movies with friends, maybe a Zoom Pumpkin carving party, dressing up in our favorite costumes and decorating your homes with spiderwebs, ghosts, and maybe a witch or a zombie. However, October is the start of another important season as well, and this season may cause a lot more fear for most people than Halloween does. That's right, it is officially College Application Season. Most applications are now open for Fall 2021 admittance with deadlines as early as November 30th, 2020.

November 30th is right around the corner, so that date may sound pretty scary right about now, especially if you/your child has not started their apps yet. What's more, nobody has ever navigated college app season during an international pandemic, which will definitely change who is accepted to various colleges and universities, as well as what they need from you in order to apply. Right now, most schools have relaxed their requirement for standardized tests already because so many of the SAT/ACT test dates were cancelled. For some of you, this may sound great - no test scores? One less thing to worry about! For others, maybe you were really hoping those scores would boost your application.

Don't panic! Take a nice soothing sip of that pumpkin spice beverage, and keep these things in mind:

1) You have time if you start today! Make sure you have done your research and know what the application deadline is of the specific schools you're applying to. This can be easily found by simply googling "School name + application deadlines." Make sure you're looking at the deadline for Fall 2021 admittance (if that's when you're planning to go). While some schools such as UC's and Cal State schools have November 30th deadlines, some schools around the greater U.S. have December deadlines, and many others are not even due until late January or even February! In addition, there are different deadlines for different programs, as well as deadlines for financial aid/scholarships, or if you're applying early action/early decision, so make sure you know what the correct deadline is for you and write it down! Erring on the side of submitting as early as possible regardless of the deadline is also always a good way to go.

2) Once you make a list of application deadlines, keep it somewhere where you can easily and quickly refer to it! If you wrote it on good old-fashioned paper, you can highlight the different school deadlines in different colors, and post it on your bulletin board/wall/somewhere you can see it or slide it into the front of a binder you use often. That way, you can always easily take a glance at it without having to look up every single school separately, every time you need to find the deadline. If you made your list on the computer/internet - save it on a site or in a folder that is easy to access, where you'll remember it. Also, set reminders! Put a reminder in your phone two weeks before the deadline then another one week before, and another three days before, especially if you're busy and have a lot of other things to think about.

3) Many schools can be applied to through one application. The Common Application, as well as certain state school apps such as the UC App and the Cal State app are all one application that sends your general app info to all the schools you select/choose to add. This saves you a lot of time! Keep in mind, however, some schools do specifically have their own application, and some programs within each University/college have supplemental applications (meaning they require additional info/essays/portfolios specific to that particular program or major), so it's best to set up your common app/UC app/Cal State apps now, check which schools are on there/ which ones need you to apply to separately, and that way you know how many additional apps you'll have to do outside of the Common App or how many supplemental apps you need to do. This will allow you to manage your time leading up to the deadlines.

4) Get started now! Even though the earliest deadlines are still over a month away, that time will fly. Fill out all the easy parts of the apps as soon as you can and look at the essay questions, short answer questions, and any additional supplemental material they're asking for. Get started on the essays asap - you may change what you're writing about, so start now! Talk to a counselor, teacher or advisor about your essay if you need help, and have them read it over/provide feedback (more than once if possible). Another option is to schedule a session with us. Also, keep in mind that depending on what major you're applying to, you may need to submit an art portfolio, a digital one, you might need to show up to audition, send a demo reel, write additional essays, or showcase yourself in some way that requires extra work/prep. The earlier you know what you need, the better chance you'll finish early/won't be cramming and panicking at the last minute.

5) Start asking your teachers/counselors/coaches/mentors for letters of recommendation now. If you don't know who you'd ask for a letter of recommendation, now is the time to think about it and start asking around. Begin by approaching someone you trust - if they're not the person who can write a rec, they may have an idea of who could do that for you. Simply approaching a teacher or administrator during lunch or before/after school (or even by email) and asking if they'd be willing to write you a letter of recommendation for college apps will give you a leg up - everybody else is going to be asking those same teachers/administrators as the app deadlines approach, and they are going to be busy. Better to have them thoughtfully write yours early, than have them rush through it because they've got 20-30 other students who have asked the week before the deadline. It's also more considerate of their time/schedule to ask early so they don't have to rush to meet YOUR deadlines - they are busy, they work full time, they have families/personal lives too.

Whether you've already begun or are just getting started, have no fear! There is help where you need it. We at Strongin Learning are available for private virtual sessions to help with any stage of this process and we can even do group sessions as well. Contact us for more information at


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