Completing the College Application Process -- Even If You Haven't Started Yet!

Victoria Heath/Unsplash

Procrastinate: DELAY, LAG, LOITER, DAWDLE, DALLY mean to move or act slowly so as to fall behind. DELAY usually implies a putting off of something (such as a beginning or departure). Are you a procrastinator but still want to go to college?

For high school seniors in the throes of the college application process, this time of year (early December, at this writing) can be stressful for a number of reasons. By the way, if you happen to be a high school junior, you should pay attention to the kinds of challenges your senior friends are having, because you are just a year away from those same issues that include: (1) selecting the right list of schools to apply to, and (2) how best to market yourself in amid the wide array of entrance requirements.

Accordingly, I thought we might take a look at, first, how to create (hopefully all you seniors are well beyond the creation phase) or complete your list of candidate colleges that will receive your application. Second, you also need to consider some options for dealing with specific application strategies, mainly the issue of problematical standardized test scores. Believe it or not, it may not be too late to make key changes to your college application process.

First thing's first. You need to get settled on your college list. Ever notice how quickly deadlines sneak up on us? The older we get, the faster they appear. Think back to when you were in first grade. Remember how it seemed like Christmas would never arrive? Well, you're in high school now. Every milestone seems to be just around the corner. If you're a senior, there's a very big deadline looming: your decision about college.

Now Is the Time to Act

Maybe you've put off thinking about what to do, where to go, how to pay, and all those other important decisions involved in the college search and planning process. If you have, then it's time to take a deep breath and make some hard choices. Now! These issues don't take care of themselves. You and your family have to do something about them.

If you haven't already done so, how can you get started? The best place is in your high school guidance office. Sitting there right now are two key ingredients to making college decisions: your guidance counselor and a pile of books, materials and other resources about college. You must talk to your counselor and you must do some research. You must also get your family involved in the process. It's a team sport.

Here's a rough timetable of events for those of you who haven't yet done any planning for or made any choices about college. It's now the beginning of December of your senior year. That's very late to start thinking about college. But it's not too late. Your counselor has probably spoken to you on more than one occasion asking you what your thoughts are about college. I'll bet your parents have been interrogating you, too. If you have so far been undecided, resolve to start making some decisions.

Talk to your counselor as soon as possible. If you really want to go to college, come up with a minimum of three college choices. Use one of these "best college search tools." Check the entrance requirements of the colleges you've got on your short list. Make sure your profile fits theirs.

Get Your Materials Together

Now you've got the ball rolling. Don't panic. There is still enough time for you to make the right choices about college. Again, remember to talk to your counselor, read the resource materials (both printed and web-based) and keep your family involved with every step you take.

I'm willing to bet that if you get started with this process -- even today, using a good search program, you can have your Common Application ready to go out to some reasonably well-considered colleges within the next several weeks, assuming that you're willing to tackle the essay and possible other writing requirements of the colleges you select. Your recommendations, transcripts and any other actions needed will depend on the specific school. Keep in mind that all this is doable if you focus on the task and act now.

Of course, if you haven't met the testing requirements (SATs, ACTs, Subject Tests, etc.) then you could encounter some roadblocks. However, there's even a way around test requirements: the so-called "test-optional" colleges. These are schools that don't require you to submit standardized test scores. Here's where to find those schools. This could be the key that unlocks college doors for you.

When you go to the FairTest site, you'll see these welcome words, "More Than 1,050 Accredited Colleges and Universities That Do Not Use ACT/SAT Scores to Admit Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor-Degree Programs." Great! You'll also see this further explanation:

This list includes institutions that are "test optional," "test flexible" or otherwise de-emphasize the use of standardized tests by making admissions decisions -- without using ACT or SAT scores -- for all or many applicants who recently graduated [or will graduate]from U.S. high schools.

The text further notes that some schools exempt students who meet grade-point average or class rank criteria while others require SAT or ACT scores but use them only for placement purposes or to conduct research studies. Check with the school's admissions office to learn more about specific admissions requirements

The schools are listed in alphabetical order. Here's a sample listing:

Test-optional colleges Credit:

Thus, the answers to your college application process procrastination (or even complications or frustrations) may well lie with a good search program and FairTest. You can use these two resources to identify those colleges that meet your criteria, either for the heart of your list or to fill out those remaining details, such as additional ballpark or safety selections.

Yes, it is late, but there is still time for you to find a way, if you have the motivation to start acting now!