Early Decision week is over. Now what?

It’s a new week, complete with an election and no Early deadlines! If you’re the parent of a senior who’s just submitted, relax for a while, and remember that a parent’s job is never done. You might find yourself pushing your student to finalize an Early Decision II application for January. You may think that the list of Regular Decision schools isn’t long enough. You may wonder what to say or not say, depending on the outcome of the Early apps. But remember that you are not alone in the process. We can help!

Up Next: It Could be the Interview! In many cases, an application triggers an interview. My students never have to feel left out. I regularly coach them on how to approach the interview and make sure they anticipate questions that might be asked. When I conducted alumni interviews for Brown, it was easy to sort out those who were sincere and prepared from those who weren’t. Reach out if your son or daughter is anxious about an upcoming interview. It’s a great life experience!

No EDs? Become an Even Better Applicant! There are many very good reasons to not apply Early Decision, particularly the desire or need to compare offers. Many of my students in this application cycle have favorite colleges that don’t even have an ED option. So what should they do?

  1. Keep those grades up. Colleges want to know that they’re not getting slackers, and they can tell when the high school counselor sends a midyear report.

  2. Prepare fresh content for outstanding essays. If your student rushed essays (e.g., for Early Action colleges), there will be time to craft something original. In the event you’re still traveling to see colleges, your student can refer to a visit if there’s an opportunity.

  3. Embellish the app with social media and ZeeMee. There are many examples in Supplementing the College Supplement, available on Apple Books, the Kindle Store or my website.

The Big Picture Washington Post author Jeff Selingo reminds readers,”It’s college application season — and it’s not just students looking for the right fit.” Echoing a theme mentioned recently in this blog, colleges look at all the wonderful attributes of students, then pick their freshman class as a function of institutional priorities. He writes, “Colleges have priorities just like applicants do in their search for the right fit. Some colleges want more students who pay in full, or more students from Nebraska or California or pick a state. They might need more English majors or a kicker for the football team.”

Interestingly, a good deal of the discussion focused on (not taking too many) APs. According to Selingo’s findings, colleges believe that five AP courses in high school really help a student’s college performance, but above that amount it may not matter. Parents have often asked whether their student has enough AP courses, or once the semester starts, how it “looks” to drop a difficult AP. Hopefully, it helps to know that your student need not overload, especially if it places an undue burden on the student and might affect first-semester grades.

  1. Colleges want to know that a student has maximized the opportunity for rigor.

  2. Students are compared first against their high school’s profile, which lists available honors and AP courses.

You Mean There’s Still Time? Check Those Deadlines! While most ED and EA deadlines are November 1, some students have a few more weeks (to agonize). For example, Dickinson College, which bills itself as “a revolutionary education designed for a revolutionary age,” has an ED I date of November 15 and an EA deadline of December 1. Hamilton College, home to fine writers, also gives applicants until the 15th to apply.


Testing (Writing Skills) Like interviewing, the ability to write effectively is a huge part of the college-ready process. Recently, The Washington Post asked, “How should admissions officials judge applicants’ writing skills?” Fewer than 25 colleges now consider the essay section of the SAT or ACT, which we all know was scored erratically. Some elite colleges, including Princeton, Stanford and alma mater Brown, request applicants to add a graded paper to their application, which also causes considerable angst among students. (Is my paper too long? What if there aren’t enough comments? What if I like a paper from sophomore and not junior year?)


Extracurricular Choices Parents frequently ask about the number and types of extracurriculars their student should have (also known as “should have for college”). In a U.S. News article, we are reminded that “the quality of a college hopeful’s extracurricular activities matters more than the number of activities he or she participates in.” Over the last several weeks, students have shared their Common App activities grid with me. The grid allows for 10 activities, and what’s most important is to show off those of value in their order of importance. The U.S. News article mentions, and rightly so, that a candidate should seek to distinguish herself in the selected activities, perhaps helping the community or pursuing something unique.

On the Gridiron What would November be without competitive football? This season features matchups between some unCommon favorites. Big 10 powerhouse Michigan is enjoying an strong season, 8-1 overall and 6-0 in its conference after trouncing popular Penn State, 42-7. (Maybe PSU was distracted by its new Early Action program?) Michigan’s only loss came at the hands of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish, undefeated at 9-0, took care of the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday. Notre Dame has a Restrictive Early Action program, meaning that students can’t apply both to ND REA and another college’s Early Decision program.


It may be the end of busy season, but it’s not the end of our interaction. (Parents: I really miss those students!) For more tips and assistance during application season, get in touch with unCommon Apps.

Does your student have a college interview coming up? Be sure to download Mastering the College Interview, available on Apple Books or through my website! ($3.99)


#collegeapplications #RegularDecision

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