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unCommon Insight on Early Decision and Senior-Year Testing

Last Tuesday was not only the start of a new month; it was also Early Decision Day. On Monday, October 31, Naviance, which extracts information from the Common App and acts as the conduit to colleges, reported twice the volume versus a year ago.

There’s a lesson here: Too many people are waiting too long! This year, I’ve seen an increase in the number of students lagging behind in drafting their essays, approaching teachers for recommendations and actually submitting their apps. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Parents of seniors: What if your student applied Early?

  1. Do be prepared for possibly another round of Early Decision! Some wonderful colleges (such as Bowdoin, pictured above) offer both ED I and ED II. Also, the second round of ED is a really good option for students who get deferred or turned down by their Early Decision school since they can apply to their runner-up choice.

  2. Do show excitement when your student is called for an interview. Early applicants may receive a call or email from an alumni interviewer from the target college. (They can always email me for targeted prep and tuneup.)

  3. Do make sure your student stays on task. Colleges require mid-year reports. And if your student is deferred and will be joining a Regular applicant pool, those grades are critical. No slacking off!

  4. Do encourage your student to check the target college’s account regularly. Every college is different, but a check-in is a good idea. The account is a way for your student to be sure materials were received, find out about notification dates, and get a decision in December.

  5. Don’t bring up the pending application unless your student wants to discuss it. At this point, there’s only so much he or she can do other than to be a good student and citizen. Be a good sounding board. But remember that your fears will not help the at-home dynamic.

What About Senior-Year Testing?

Reporting and Posting Test Results

It happens every admissions season. Students and parents go into a bit of a panic thinking that scores and transcripts didn’t make it to the colleges in time. But how likely are those scenarios? To find out, I checked in with some expert sources.

According to Dean J from UVA Admissions, ““If your school sends items electronically, it still takes a few days for that information to make it into your file . . . As long as you submitted your application in time, everything will be okay. “

The ACT states that it processes score report requests within a week and tells us that colleges have a preferred schedule for receiving scores.

As for College Board scores (i.e., SAT family of tests), Dean J remarks, “We do not accept or reject the scores; they arrive automatically. At slow times, the reports come once each day. Around deadlines, the reports come more often. I get an email every time there’s an electronic transfer, regardless of whether the delivery is of one person’s scores or of a massive group of scores from a popular test date.”

Nina’s Suggestion: Your student can send screen shots in the interim, which serve as proof while the files get caught up.

Love that UVA—and that UVA blog!

Retaking Tests

It’s not uncommon for seniors to retake tests in September (ACT) or October (SAT). Many colleges look at other factors aside from test scores. To be certain, particularly if there’s an Early Decision at stake, the student should check the target college’s website.

UVA’s Dean J advises students to take the last recommended test a month before the deadline. So for parents of seniors applying Regular Decision, November should be it.

For those concerned that a university sees all scores across multiple exam dates, a system at UVA selects the best possible scores (i.e., superscores) before the admissions officers see the file.

Parents of underclassmen: This process isn’t impossible. Here’s how we help:

In the winter, look at ways to incorporate college visits into other plans.

In the spring, your student should come see me to understand the Common App essay prompts and create a realistic schedule.

In the fall, your student can come in for interview skills training.


The ability to secure scholarships doesn’t end with the senior year of high school. In’s “Digging for Scholarships Can Turn Up College Gold,” Willard Dix points out that Sallie Mae, which provides student loan products and services, is also a good site for scholarship information.

This week, I’ll be resuming my college tours, so watch for reports! Be sure to ask questions. We’re here to help so you don’t “fall back.”


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