I am not sure what this says about me, but I think traffic lights are awesome. Maybe I just played Red Light/Green Light a little too much as a kid. But traffic lights bring order to what could be chaos, give people subtle and not so subtle alerts about what to do, and overall they help everyone get to where they want to go. To truly appreciate traffic lights, all you have to do is drive up to one that is not working. Nothing is worse that having to deal with the flashing red light, and the fear that comes from not knowing if everyone else actually understands what to do in this situation. Because of my love of traffic signals, here are a few Admission related traffic light suggestions to help survive the admission process without any crashes, blaring of horns or polite/impolite hand gestures.
- Apply Earlier than the listed Deadline – If you are going to the airport, you always want to leave early enough to get you to the gate an hour before the plan departs. You want to leave plenty of time to deal with traffic (and malfunctioning lights), finding a parking space, a long line at security, or any other possible problem. I suggest you set a date a week prior to the actual application deadline as your unofficial deadline for submitting your application. If you are applying to UGA Early Action (deadline of 10/15), a personal deadline of 10/6 to submit your application would be good (Sundays being by far the most popular day to submit an app). If you need to take until 11:59 pm EST on 10/15, that is fine, as we will treat your file the same as any other applicant, but you add extra stress to everyone by waiting until the last minute.
- Go ahead and start your essays – We receive great essays, we receive average essays, and then we receive essays that are done at the last second. When an essay starts with the words “I’m sorry, but I didn’t have time to finish this essay”, we have issues. This is not going to fly with a UGA faculty member in a student’s first English class, so it’s not going to fly with us. Even if you feel your first draft is average, at least start writing it out. I’ve done over 600 blog posts, and each one started out rough.
- Send in the Test Scores – We superscore SAT and ACT scores, and only use the best subscores, so there is no reason not to go ahead and send them in. Just do it! And if stronger scores come in later (within the deadline), we will add them to your file and use them instead. The worst calls we have are with students who forgot to send in materials on time.
- Slow Down with the Recommendations – I don’t mean wait until the last minute to ask your teachers/counselor/boss to send in a recommendation, but rather think first about who you are going to ask to write a letter of recommendation. Does this person know you well, or just your family? Can this person give us insight as to what you are like in the classroom or in the community, or is this just one more letter to add to the stack? Don’t ask someone for a recommendation just to make your application “thicker”. We suggest one teacher recommendation and one community recommendation at the most.
- Parents, Slow down on the Application questions – The college admissions process can be stressful for the entire family, but there are ways to de-stress the process. We suggest you have a one 30-45 minute family conversation a week (choose a set day and time) to talk about the college admission process, and then let it go for the rest of the week. Don’t bring up deadlines during the car ride to soccer practice, or over family dinner every other night, at least not if you want progress. Put the meeting on the calendar, let everyone get prepared, and then get the questions out of the way for the rest of the week.
- Slow down on buying X college gear – We always get a few parents calling about three days in advance of our decision release dates asking if they can have some insight on a decision so they can have time to buy UGA shirts, hats, balloons or red & black cakes. One, we don’t release decisions early, even if it means our bookstore would be happy. Two, the applicant pool changes so much every year that it is too hard for anyone to guess about a specific decision. If a student is admitted, jump around, shout, dance and celebrate, and know you can still but UGA gear the next day.
- Don’t get pulled into admissions “small talk” – There are certain things you can talk about at get-togethers, such as food, books, movies, and if UGA is going to make it to the college football playoff game. As well, there are certain topics that are best left out of the discussion (I won’t name them, but you know what they are). Add college admissions to the second group. Uncle Bob might be the most fanatical alumnus of college X, but probably has no working knowledge of their admissions process. Just ask him about the benefits of cooking on a charcoal vs gas grill and he will be good to go for 30 minutes or more.
- Don’t get sucked into “chance me” admission threads – Every year, there are certain websites where students will ask for the collective audience to guess about their chances for admission at X, and what they need to do to improve their odds. You are much better off learning about admissions from talking with the people at college fairs, on campus event visits, HS visits or through their on their social media sites about what the admission office values in their review process. Certain sites are great for rating restaurants, hotels and Uber drivers , but admissions is a very different world altogether.
- Don’t do things because you think it “looks good on an application” – There are no secret boxes to check off to insure you will be admitted, or certain clubs or activities that are better than others in admissions. Playing the tuba is not going to give you a leg up in the process, no matter what your neighbor says. We are looking at what you enjoy, what your interests are, and your overall application within the context of your individual situation. Study hard, challenge yourself, find your interests, step outside your comfort zone, and enjoy life. Besides, tubas are heavy and tough to play.
Go Dawgs, and good luck in the admissions process!