Application Advice
Becky Tankersley
Georgia Tech
Guest Blogger

Your Application is in… Now What?

This week we welcome Communications Manager of Strategy and Enrollment Planning (and former Assistant Director of Admission) Becky Tankersley back to the blog. Welcome, Becky!

If you’re a high school senior, you’ve likely submitted at least one college application by now (or you will be soon, right?). As I review our blog posts over the past year, I see we’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve talked about writing your long essay… writing your supplemental essay… building your activity list… what to ask during your campus visit… what to do when the answer you hoped to hear turns into a “no”… and tips for parents to consider along the way.

What seems to be missing is this: what do you do AFTER you’ve submitted your application? A lot of focus is placed on the process of visiting, applying, and choosing your best college match. But there’s a good bit of time between the moment you submit your application and when you receive an actual decision.

What happens in the gap? Here are some ways you can make the best use of the newfound time you suddenly have on your hands.

Check your email and/or applicant portal. Once your application is in, be sure to check your email and applicant portal (if applicable) to monitor the status of your application and additional materials needed. Please note: IF YOU HAVE ALREADY ASKED YOUR SCHOOL COUNSELOR TO SUBMIT INFORMATION and it hasn’t appeared in your checklist yet, be patient! Many colleges have separate deadlines for students and school counselors to submit information. For example, at Tech our early application deadline is October 15. The document deadline (the deadline for documentation such as transcripts, recommendations, etc. to arrive) is November 15. We realize it takes time for counselors to gather and submit information for multiple students. So, please don’t panic if something is missing! If you’ve made the request, give it some time.

Not only does it take your counselor time to send in your information, but it also takes time for us on the college side to receive, process, and tie your documents to your application. If something is still missing after a bit of time, check back in to see if your documents are in the queue. But by all means do not become rude or pushy! School counselors don’t like that… and (hint) admission staffers don’t either.

Also, be aware there may be times your application is marked as complete, then after your documents are reviewed by the admission committee, your application once again becomes incomplete. You may be asked to submit more information. This is why it’s critical to check your portal every week or so. A potential change in your application status is also why you need to OPEN AND READ the emails you receive from colleges where you’ve applied. We get it—we know you get a ton of emails from a lot of colleges! But if you read nothing else, at least read the messages from schools where you have an active application on file. Emails from those schools are timely and can impact whether or not you receive an admission decision on time.

Start applying for financial aid. Now that your admission applications are in (or will be soon!), it’s time to apply for financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is free and available now! While this form has become somewhat simpler over the years, it’s still not an easy form to complete. Give yourself, and your parents, time to complete this important document if you want to be considered for Federal or need-based aid.

Similar to your admission application, financial aid offices also track your documents as they arrive. If you are selected for verification you could be asked to provide additional information, so be sure to allow enough time to fully complete this process ahead of the financial aid deadlines each school has set (hint – our priority deadline at Tech is Jan. 31).

Beyond the FAFSA, each school may have its own financial aid forms to complete. Be sure to check the financial aid websites of the schools where you’ve applied and get started on this important information sooner rather than later.

Hurry up and wait. The last thing to do is… wait. And wait well. Life doesn’t stop while you’re waiting for an admission decision. Sitting around and worrying isn’t going to benefit anyone, especially you! Write a thank you note to everyone who has helped you in this process (e.g. school counselors, letter of recommendation writers, and anyone else who has served as a mentor to you). Lead a project at school, help a friend, spend time with your family, and of course keep studying and working hard in class. Be active and grow where you’re planted.

Right now, in this moment, actually BE where you are instead of worrying about where you will be in a few months. Rest easy in knowing you’ve done your part (assuming you’re checking your email!) and give it time.

Easier said than done, but trust me, practicing that now will help keep your blood pressure down in the future.

Becky Tankersley has worked in higher education for more than 10 years. She joined Georgia Tech in 2012 after working at a small, private college in Northeast Tennessee. Prior to working in higher education, she worked as a television news producer. Her current role blends her skills in college recruitment and communication. Becky is the editor of  the GT Admission Blog, and also serves as a Content Coordinator for the American Association of Collegiate Registrar and Admission Officers.

If you would like to subscribe to receive blog entries when they post, please enter your email address in the “subscribe” box at the top of the page. We welcome comments and feedback at @gtadmission on Twitter.

Just Get Started

This week we welcome Communications Manager of Strategy and Enrollment Planning (and former Assistant Director of Admission) Becky Tankersley back to the blog. Welcome, Becky!

Last week I chatted with the mom of a high school senior. She shared how her son came home in a flurry at 4 p.m. the Friday before fall break, stressed out over finishing an assignment that was due at 5 p.m. Of course, she’d given him the usual “why didn’t you start this earlier” speech, but it was too late at that point. We each conceded there are times in life your kids have to learn hard lessons for themselves.

As we talked about “his” procrastination, I had to admit that even as an adult I deal with the same issue. Just like a high school senior, I tend to put things off until the last minute, OR until everything is just right (call it the Enneagram 9 in me—not familiar? Check it out). Write a blog? I’ll troll the internet and think about it. Organize the closet? Let me make sure I have all the right storage solutions and containers. Make dinner? Let me first get everyone’s vote and then I’ll get on Pinterest. Sometimes my distraction isn’t even useful. Take a shower? Let me scroll through my Instagram feed…

The difference between me now (an adult) and me 20 years ago (a high school senior) is I have enough life experience to know my “sweet spot.” I’ve found the balance needed to produce quality work in a short amount of time. And while it’s good to know my sweet spot, there are situations when nothing can replace the investment of time—real, actual time—to complete a long-term project or goal.

No Substitute for Time

A year ago I started running. If you don’t want to take a trip down memory lane, here are the highlights: in my 20s I was super fit. In my 30s I had babies. After baby #2, I was NOT super fit, and went on a three-year exercise hiatus (oops). The hiatus lasted until “the photo” was taken, and it was then I knew something had to change. I researched different workouts and chose running—the ONE activity I swore I would never do (“why would anyone run for fun?”). I started a Couch to 5k program and finished my first 5k two months later. I’ve continued running and am now staring down my first 10k (less than one week away!).

I’ve gone from struggling to run 10 minutes to successfully running for an hour. But I’m not here to talk about my fitness journey—I’m here to talk about time. No matter how adept I become at procrastination, there are moments when I have to spend extended time to get things done. I can’t expect my body to go from running one mile to four miles in a single week. Building up that kind of endurance takes time (and a lot of it!). The key to maximizing that time is simple: just get started.

In an ironic twist of fate, I work in an industry where I routinely remind students via blogs, emails, and other marketing materials of the perils of procrastination. When I worked in the admission call center, student workers and I would regularly shake our heads at the number of panicked calls and emails we received from students who waited until THE LAST MINUTE to meet a deadline, ran into an obscure technical issue, then called us when they were melting down. And I’ll be candid—as a rule, our student workers didn’t have a lot of sympathy.

Early action/decision deadlines are right around the corner. Even if you don’t plan to apply early to a school, applications are still open and being reviewed at colleges across the nation right now. And if you’re like me, you may be sitting… and waiting… to start. After all, you’ve still got a (week? month?) to get it done.

It’s easy to fall into this trap. Don’t do it! We’ve written about time management, essay topics, and deadlines on this blog many times in the past. These posts are all worth reviewing again (hint hint!). When it comes to meeting admission deadlines, there are three main areas that tend to trip students up the most. Here are a few tips to get past those hurdles.

1 – The Essay

Take it from someone who writes (and edits) for a living—your first draft is NOT your final draft. Your first draft will, must, and should change. Seasoned writers go through multiple drafts to get their content right, and you’re no different than them. Yes, you need to think through your essay and find a creative way to tell us about yourself. Thinking is great, and necessary—but that’s not ACTION. Jot those thoughts down. Grab your phone and voice record your ideas. I’ve found I never actually listen to any of my voice recordings, but the simple act of talking it through—sometimes multiple times—is enough to get my brain to focus on my topic and narrow my thoughts. The most important thing is to write. Something. Down. Once you have a “brain dump” in a Word document, come back to it—two, three, maybe even four times—to make edits and changes. Each time you look at it with a fresh pair of eyes you’ll discover something new to say (or remove). If you wait until the last minute to actually write your essay, you lose those precious chances for review. So grab your laptop and write something down. Just get started!

2 – The Activity List

The amount of activities students list on their college applications astounds me. I don’t know how you squeeze so much activity into your schedules (kudos to you!). But some students get lost in how to best record those. Do you list by longevity? By contribution? In chronological order? If you have more than 8-10 activities, which ones should you leave out? It can become overwhelming. Similar to the essay, voice record your thoughts, jot them down, write them in a Word document (or a Google doc, I have no preference here), and let it sit there. Come back the next day and review it. Maybe what seemed important in that first draft no longer resonates. Perhaps you left out something significant. Or maybe you need to highlight your own personal contributions in a different way. Like the essay, if you wait until the last minute you lose that crucial time for reviewing, and re-reviewing, what you’ve written down. Just get started!

3 – Hitting “Submit.”

This part is possibly the biggest challenge you’ll face. There’s something about that final “submit” button that almost taunts you. Are you sure? Should you look again? Did you remember to say everything? Wait, did I use my legal or preferred name? Hitting the submit button is the final thing within YOUR control—once you submit, control no longer belongs to you. The ball is officially out of your court. This makes it tempting to wait until the last minute to check that box and call it done. After all, as long as it’s still in your hands it’s still within your control, right? While that may feel empowering, it’s also a weight that you don’t have to carry. Remember—if you’ve followed the steps above then you’ve done your job. The last thing on your to-do list is finish the race. Hit submit. Just get started!

Just Start!

As a mom, I implore my 2nd grader every day to just do your homework! Get it done and you can do whatever you want (within reason). But like me, she drags her feet—eats a snack, gets water, goes to the bathroom, wait, does the dog need a walk? Last week she had the light bulb moment: “Wait a minute,” she said thoughtfully. “If I do all of this right now, does that mean the next two days I don’t have to do this when I get home?” “Yes,” I emphatically replied. “That’s exactly what it means. So do you want to power through and get this done?” “YES!” she said.

Progress. She just had to get started. So did I. And so do you. Stop thinking about it, stop waiting for “x” to happen, and for all that’s good in the world, stop scrolling through your social media feed. Just get started!

Becky Tankersley has worked in higher education for more than 10 years. She joined Georgia Tech in 2012 after working at a small, private college in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee. Prior to working in higher education, she worked as a television news producer. Her current role blends her skills in college recruitment and communication. Becky is the editor of  the GT Admission Blog, and also serves as a Content Coordinator for the American Association of Collegiate Registrar and Admission Officers.

If you would like to subscribe to receive blog entries when they post, please enter your email address in the “subscribe” box at the top of the page. We welcome comments and feedback at @gtadmission on Twitter.