College Application Deadlines: Pace Yourself Like An Athlete

Slow and steady wins the race.
Train everyday to win on game day.
Switch-up the routine to avoid burn out.

These adages can be applied to many activities, not just sports. Your students could try repeating them like mantras right about now. The Good News: your student isn’t alone. I just got off the telephone with one parent who was begging me to convince her son to finish his Supplemental Essays by mid-December instead of waiting until the deadline. The student applied Early Decision to a college that he’s fairly certain will admit him so he’s taken his foot off the proverbial essay-writing accelerator. This student’s mother, concerned that the college application deadlines will “scrooge” their holiday vacation plans, called me for a game plan.  (Yes, I used “scrooge” as a verb, but I wouldn’t let one of my students in his/her application essays.)

What, then, is the pacing trick for these last few weeks of the application season? What if your student is, in fact, one helluva sprinter aka procrastinator, who manages to save every assignment to the last minute and still gets A’s?

Unfortunately, I’ve seen the Supplemental Essays trip up even the most agile of writer-athletes, simply because of the quantity of them due simultaneously.  And, unlike exams or research papers, there are no extensions or make-up days with application deadlines.

So, even though your student’s standardized testing is done or almost done, and first semester final exams or papers are near completion, there are still enough distractions to give even the fittest of students pause. Holiday parties, winter vacation plans, sheer exhaustion and, if your student applied early, the old, “I’ll get into my ED choice so why worry about the rest of my apps?” rationale are seemingly good reasons for not taking their remaining Supplemental Essays seriously.

Try one or all of these “pitches” when convincing your student to get their essays done before Winter Break:

Give a Busy Person a Plan: Chances are your student is a high-achiever. Or a high-enough achiever. Students today are usually over-committed in a variety of ways, from academics to extracurriculars, with no one time-eating culprit. Organizing their days and weeks is an important skill for students to have BEFORE they head off to college and beyond. Mapping out how they’re going to get their essays completed by the various college application deadlines is a wonderful way to learn a vital life-lesson.

Train to Gain:  As full-time students, your children have been reading, writing, thinking, managing and communicating for over 12 years.  They’ve been building their muscle mass for this college application marathon. As with any academic subject, creative pursuit or athletic effort, some students are quicker or more facile than others at putting their ideas on paper. But, as high school seniors, all are essay-writing pros. In these last few weeks, it comes down to focus and determination versus ability.

The Holidays Will Be More Fun: This is my last-ditch effort when convincing students to NOT wait until December 26th to begin focusing on their essays. “Trust me,” I say, “your parents will not be on your case and, in turn, you will have a much better vacation if you get these puppies done before Winter Break.”  Some students quasi-listen to me and some don’t. Either way, the essays do get written, uploaded and submitted on time.

For additional tips on how to coach your students through the homestretch of college application deadlines and madness, give me a holler or drop me a line: 917-863-2424 or