Finish August Strong

Finishing August Strong

By Chuck Hughes

Former Harvard Admissions Officer


As we reach mid-August, schools are beginning across the country, and it is time for students to compile a check-list of where they are in the application process as homework, fall activities and high school senior year descends upon them.  There is still plenty of time to meet deadlines, but here are a few check-list items to consider.


Fall Testing Deadlines: 

The August 26th SAT registration deadlines have passed, but the September 9th ACT late registration deadline is August 18th, so there are still a few days to register if you have yet to do so.  Deadlines for Future ACT and SAT dates are:


ACT Date                                                         Deadline                                           Late Deadline

September 9

August 4

August 5-18

October 28

September 22

Sept 23-Oct 6

December 9

November 3

Nov 4-17


SAT Date                                                          Deadline                                           Late Deadline

October 7

September 8

Sept 27

November 4

October 5

October 25

December 2

November 2

November 21


Essay Planning:

By the time school begins, we encourage students to have as much essay work completed as possible; however, if you were to prioritize your writing, do you have a draft of your main personal statement and drafts of supplements for your early and rolling applications ready?  Trying to have 3-5 schools’ worth of essay writing completed, or more, completed by September 1 can take huge burden off a student considering the school work that often awaits students come the start of the school year. 


Communicating with Colleges:

While not every school is interested in hearing from students directly, there are a growing number of private universities who are looking at how students engage their admissions office in trying to determine a student’s genuine interest in the institution.  For those schools that offer admissions officer’s contact information on their “connect with us” pages, we highly recommend sending an email introducing yourself, asking pertinent questions of interest and learning whether someone from their admissions office will be visiting your school or area. Remember – if you choose to send an email to a school – your communication should be strong and not haphazard. Poorly written emails or ones crafted without much thought as to what interests you or matters to you regarding a school might have some deleterious impact on your application. With that said, we like for our students to communicate to schools about their genuine interest.


Early Applications and Rolling/EA Applications:

Many students are finalizing their list and are trying to make sense of what to do – EA vs. ED – but we want students to think about schools that might offer early action or rolling responses to applications in the hopes of hearing news earlier in the process. Rolling admissions schools like Indiana can turn decisions around within 4-6 weeks, and EA schools will let students know between December 1-December 31.  We encourage students to have 1-2 colleges that are “likely” on their list with these application deadlines/process with the hopes of having one or two YES responses prior to the January application deadlines. It can make a world of difference to know you have been admitted to a few schools before the New Year begins.


Complete the Common Application/Coalition Application ASAP:

We want all of our students to have the common application data pages, the activities list and all supplemental questions for early applications completed by September 1, as this is an easy way for students to get into the application groove if procrastination is setting in with the end of summer approaching.


Email Teachers and Counselor in Regard to Recommendations:

As school gets closer, teachers and counselors are beginning to return to campus to respond to questions and to make themselves available to students. I think it is important to check-in with teachers in particular to make sure you share with them when you are planning on submitting your early applications, particularly if you are looking for some early feedback with rolling applications. The school will have some requirements to produce your transcript and counselor letter, so we want to make sure that those materials are completed in early September, so you are not waiting for the school to complete their parts in order for your applications to be evaluated by your early/rolling schools.


You still have plenty of time and more than two months before the November 1 deadlines, but you want to keep in mind that colleges appreciate students who are on top of deadlines and can submit their applications early to help spread out the reading.