Applying to the college application process
By: Belinda Gonzalez-Leon, Ed. D., MBA
DORAL, FL – The college application process is riddled with dates. Dates that applications open, dates that paperwork is due, and dates by which you need to inform the college of certain decisions. If you miss a deadline, whether it be by a few hours or days, there are no second chances. None. There is no begging the teacher for an extension or turning something in late knowing you’ll lose some points. You miss the deadline, you are out.
For every school, you apply to, for every financial aid dollar you request, and for every scholarship, you hope to win- there are hundreds or even thousands of other students in the same exact line as you. If you lose your place in line because you missed the deadline, then all the other students behind you immediately move up and tough luck to you.
The Common Application, the online application used by many universities throughout the country, opens up on August 1st. That is weeks before classes start for most high school students. A majority of colleges have deadlines in January and some as late as March.
However, two very popular schools here in Florida, University of Florida (UF) and Florida State University (FSU) have deadlines of November 1st. This year I had two students that were asked to submit their applications by October 15th. That’s not an advertised deadline. That’s the deadline those particular students were asked to adhere to because one was an athlete and the other was being considered for a special scholarship.
Normally colleges will have a November deadline for Early Decision or Early Acceptance admissions programs. A November deadline may also be used if a student would like to be considered for an honors college or program or for some specific scholarships. However, even if your college has a deadline that extends into March- you should apply as early as possible.
The reason colleges have early deadlines is because they want the best students. They want the students who can get it together and send everything in months ahead of schedule. Florida International University (FIU) allows you to apply all the way through April and the University of Central Florida (UCF) gives you until May. One of my students applied in August as soon as the Common App opened and she already has acceptances to both colleges.
Two months after the Common Application opens, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens on October 1st. This is the form that every 12th grader and current college student has to fill out yearly to request financial aid. Although the deadline to submit your FAFSA could be right before you start college, you do not want to wait that long.
Once your application is processed at both a Federal and State level for available monies, it goes to each college you applied to. They also determine how much aid they can offer you based on your information. There are also many private scholarships that use the FAFSA to determine if you are in need of money for tuition.
As financial aid starts to be doled out, the pot of gold slowly dwindles. Students have a better chance of getting more aid if they complete the form promptly than waiting until the pot is almost empty. Yes, you may still be awarded some financial aid- but it won’t be as much.
At the college or private organization level, they have limited funds and when it’s done, it’s done. That’s why it’s important to get that application in ASAP so that you can be first in line for available school funding.
There are also deadlines by when to accept an admissions offer a college has extends you; a deadline to accept grants or scholarships awarded to you; deadlines by when to pay your deposit for school or the dorm; and a deadline to submit any pending paperwork that the college is asking for.
There have been too many parents who have contacted me asking for help because they missed a deadline that shut them out of a full scholarship or a college honors program or getting into any college for that matter. Get organized! Simply write down the dates on a calendar or on your phone and be sure you remind yourself a week before the deadline.
And don’t think that meeting the acceptance or rejection deadline isn’t important. Saying, “No thank you” to a school is important. Informing a school that you have chosen not to attend is means that a student on the waiting list now gets a spot. Imagine if you were that student!
There is also the possibility that you may end up attending that very college as a transfer student or even a graduate student. You want to do things right. The school will be happy to have someone that knows how to follow directions, believes in common courtesy, and respects rules.
Remember, at some point, the dog eating your homework is no longer acceptable.
Dr. Belinda Leon is available for presentations on the step by step process for applying to college: high school coursework, choosing the right college, the application, how financial aid works- the entire process. Individual consultations too! Dr. Leon can also assist with pre-school, elementary, middle and high school questions as well as graduate school, international students and foreign credential validation issues.
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