A message for parents and students who are applying for undergraduate colleges with a 31 December deadline, or MBA applicants aiming at round two deadlines: If you do not have your essays in the final stages, your recommendations well on their way and your official transcripts in hand, it’s too late!
I am so surprised this year with how many people are waking up late in the process.
For undergraduates, the problem seems to stem from complacency about supplemental essays for individual colleges. Students think if their Common Application essay or UCAS personal statement is finished, they are almost done. For the UK this is true; you do not need to write supplemental essays. But you do need to make sure that the message in your personal statement is properly aligned with the course offerings at the five selected colleges. Often students realise late that the same course may not be available at all the colleges, so if the personal statement says you are passionate about the pursuit of economic history, but that course is not available at all five colleges, you will need to modify it to something more generic, for example, economics.
For the US, however, completing your Common Application essay is the very first preliminary step. After this, most other college supplements need to be completed. Many of these ask why you want to attend a particular college, so students must conduct research before writing the essay. If your “Why Penn” essay could easily be replaced with “Why Dartmouth” you are on the wrong track. Each essay needs to very specifically relate your interests to unique offerings at each college. Other supplemental essays ask about leadership contributions, extracurricular activities, academic projects and many other topics. These supplemental essays and questions are far more important to the college’s admissions committee than the generic Common Application essay. So you should not take the supplemental essays lightly.
For MBA applicants the main challenge seems to be achieving the ‘right’ GMAT score. If you have worked hard until December to achieve a high GMAT score, good for you. Now, wait until next year to apply to business school. Let’s say your GMAT score has put you in a position to apply to your dream business school: Stanford, Kellogg and Wharton. You will have to write at least six distinct essays in less than three weeks. With these timelines, there is no way you can produce good results. You need to understand the ethos and mission of each business school through deep research maybe talk to an alumnus or current student and then write essays that reflect your goals in relation to what each MBA program is looking for.
If you find yourself in the “too late” category, below is an approximate timeline to help you plan going forward:
June of class 11 – Standardised tests
July/August before class 12– Draft Common App essay, Internship, study for SAT if retaking
September class 12 – Decide on your college list, collect all supplement essay topics and begin brainstorming and researching. Contact teachers for recommendation letters. Create a Common Application account
October class 12 – Retake SAT if required. Finalise Early decision Essays and submit. If Oxford/Cambridge, complete personal statement and submit
November class 12 – Retake SAT if required. Produce nearly final drafts of all supplement essays
December class 12 – Finalise application forms, confirm recommendations, transcripts, mid-year reports, and project submissions
January class 12 – UCAS personal statement must be done by Jan 15 latest if not applying for Oxford/Cambridge
May before application year – Take the GMAT
June before application year – Select programmes based on GMAT score and research
July before application year – Begin drafting essays. Contact recommenders
August before application year – Continue drafting and finalising essays
September of application year – Submit applications for the first round.
If you need help planning your application journey, get in touch with us.