Last year, approximately half of the students who were accepted to Loomis applied between January 1 and January 15 — the last two weeks before the application deadline. In fact, just over 10% of those accepted students applied on January 15. And of those, approximately 70% accepted our offer of admission and are members of Pelican Nation today.
I share these statistics not to encourage students to wait until the last minute to submit applications. I share them because if your student is one of the many candidates for admission each year who has yet to apply, you are very likely stressing. You are stressing because of some combination of:
1. You think that the admission officer will note the submission date and assume that the student is either lazy, uninterested, or both and therefore the admissions decision is less likely to be a positive one;
2. You think that the application will not be well done if it is done at the last minute; and/or
3. You do not trust your student to get it submitted on time.
I can relate to this, because even with my own experience as an admission professional, I have been guilty of thinking the exact same things about the various applications my own children have submitted. In fact, I bribed one to write a college essay by promising to buy her graduation gift six months early. I am ashamed to admit this, but it is true. And it worked! Embarrassing, but effective.
At Loomis, the data does not support these procrastination anxieties (at least not the first two. The third we will never know). Yet the messaging from admission offices is, at times, just the opposite. In fact, it can be on the complete other end of the spectrum. After using my home email address for a college tour registration for one of my children (see #3 above about lack of parental trust), I received emails from said college for months with subject lines such as “It’s Not Too Late to Apply!” (Uh, I know… it’s October.) “It couldn’t be easier to submit Part One! All your demographic information is prepopulated!” the college reassured me. One subject line emphasized the speed with which “I” could complete said application: “Do You Have Four Minutes? If So, Apply!” Interestingly, the longer “I” waited, the more emails I received, and the shorter the time it apparently took; by four weeks post-tour, the college claimed it would only take 90 seconds to hit Submit. Like Stanford’s ever-dropping admit rate, I wondered if eventually it would take zero time and “I” would be considered an applicant just by registering for a tour.
Tracking application data is a core activity of any institution, as is the ability to manage application volume and flow, and I do not want to imply that I am promoting a lackadaisical approach to an application deadline. (And of course, missing the deadline is another thing altogether, and is not recommended for Loomis Chaffee or anywhere else.) But for those students who just can’t quite get the application done until the last minute, guess what? It doesn’t matter. Whether they submit it in September — as students do — or on January 15 itself, when they apply does not determine where they will go.
However, before your student starts in with the “I told you so … I have plenty of time!”, I will say this: the earlier we receive applications, the earlier we can get files completed. The earlier they are completed, the earlier we can start reading them. And the earlier we can start reading them, the more manageable the reading will be, the less exhausted we will be, the more time we can invest in each file review, and the better decisions we can make. And at the end of the day, prospective Pelican, don’t you want the admission officers reading your application to be clear-headed when they open your file?
Of course, it should be noted that for many, procrastination is the symptom of a greater issue. Procrastination can be a byproduct of perfectionism, of fear of failure, anxiety of the future, uncertainty, and doubt, among other things. It can be reflective of something that needs a larger conversation — about how one approaches risk taking, or how the application is not you, or whether applying to said school is the right decision to begin with (see my previous post, The Christmas Gift, for more on that topic). I’m not talking about that kind of procrastination. I’m talking about garden variety, don’t-want-to-do-it-until-I-have-to-because-I’d-rather-finish-watching-my-tenth-episode-of-The-Witcher procrastination. For those out there still trying to get those bingers and their comrades-in-arms to finish their applications, you unfortunately can no longer claim that their chances for getting in are going to be lessened if the application is in at the last minute. At least not at Loomis Chaffee. But there is a reason that, in my mind, anyway, trumps all others and was the #1 rationale for my own imperfect approach:
4. You are sick of nagging your child to get their application done and just want it DONE ALREADY.
This is a great reason to get that application in TODAY. And if you resort to bribery, you’re in good company here in Sellers Hall.
Amy Thompson is the dean of enrollment at The Loomis Chaffee School, a 9-12/PG boarding school in Windsor, Conn. Prior to her current role, Amy served as director of college guidance at Loomis Chaffee, director of admission at McDonogh School (MD), and assistant director of admission at Georgetown University.