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College Applications: Why You Need to Stay Motivated Over the Holidays

This time of year is especially tough for high school seniors who are beginning to reach a breaking point when it comes to school work and college applications. The last thing they want to do is write another college essay or fill out an application. It is very tempting to forgo one more essay or one more application with all of the distractions of the holidays. But students don't want to look back on this time in their life wishing they had done just a little bit more for their college process. Staying motivated right now can have a tremendous impact on where a student ends up getting admitted to.

If a student hasn't submitted any applications yet or held off submitting additional ones until hearing back from an Early Decision or Early Action college, there are some important things to do in the coming days and weeks:

  1. Remember, most college applications aren't due until January 1st, January 15th or even later. There's still time to work on applications and submit them before the deadline.
  2. There are hundreds of colleges that do not require an essay as part of the application.
  3. The colleges that do require an essay or two (or more) are generally more selective in their admissions process.
  4. It might be too late to visit a college before the student applies. This can sometimes make it harder for the student to write a college-specific essay. However, start first on the college's website to learn more about the community and programs of interest. Then go beyond the college's website to research the things that stand out. Articles written, famous alumni or faculty, or innovative programs can be used as both inspiration and the foundation of a student's college-specific essay(s). The most important thing to remember about a college-specific essay is to GET SPECIFIC about that college.
  5. With hundreds of colleges on the Common App, many times students don't have to fill out another application.
  6. However, if they need to fill out other applications, they can recycle data and material used on other applications as long as it is still applicable.
  7. Carve out a few hours each day to work on the applications over break. Make it the same time every day. It's amazing what a few hours of focused work can do when it comes to applications. It doesn't take as long as students think to fill out applications and write essays if they aren't distracted by school work.
  8. Carve out some downtime with friends and family too!
  9. Remember that most college admissions offices are technically closed over the holiday break. If a student has questions or concerns, consider emailing the office. There is usually someone responsible for answering emails from students even over the break.
  10. A well-developed and thoughtfully prepared application stands out no matter if it was sent in months or hours before the deadline. Take your time filling out these applications. As long as you leave plenty of time before the deadline to receive confirmation, you will be in good shape.

Where I'm from, there's a saying to those who want to throw in the towel: "How bad do you want it?" On occasion, I need to ask myself this same question. It's normal to feel burnt out this time of year. But you will never regret putting in some extra hours of work over break if it translates into college acceptances in a few months' time.