Christmas Break Checklist

Posted on 19th December 2018


Everyone has a to-do list over the holiday break. You may have a certain number of sprouts to eat. Or perhaps you need to buy a last-minute present. If you’re applying to US colleges this year, however, there are a few other things you’ll need to add to your yuletide list.

You probably need to submit all your applications by 1st January, as this is the deadline for most colleges. This means that you must make sure that you’ve got everything together now, because you won’t want to be working on New Year’s Eve! Here is a quick checklist of things you will have to remember to do.

1)      Check college requirements

The last thing you want is to think you’ve got everything ready, only to discover at the last minute that a college you’re applying to asks you to submit things you hadn’t thought about. Not all colleges require the same things: there are different supplemental essays, of course, and some colleges ask for extra information or even a reference from someone you hadn’t expected. Make sure you check what all the colleges require, and make a thorough list so you don’t miss anything out. Add your Common App colleges now (if you haven’t already) and check the websites of the other colleges.

2)      Letters of recommendation

If you haven’t asked your teachers for references or letters of recommendation yet, you need to get in touch with them immediately. Email the teachers/counselors directly with a very apologetic and polite email explaining that you urgently need their help. Make sure you appreciate that they’re on holiday! Then request those teachers through the Common App (or other application system).

Some colleges ask for references from other people (a ‘peer reference’ at Dartmouth, for example, or a Humanities teacher for MIT). Make sure you check your list twice to ensure you approach the appropriate people for references!

Teacher references need to be written in a different way to UCAS references, so it might be helpful to send them some help, like this guide.

3)      Essays

Hopefully you already know that there will likely be a main Common App essay to write, as well as supplemental essays for many colleges. Whatever you do, don’t underestimate these; they take way longer to perfect than students realise! Again, they should be written in a way you might not be used to: they should be personal, honest, and full of examples or anecdotes that draw the reader in. It’s of paramount importance that you make a good job of these. A badly written essay is an easy way for a college to reject you.

No matter how talented a writer you are, take the time to craft top-notch essays. Follow a helpful guide like this one, and start now!

4)      Extra curriculars

Often, students leave this part of the application to the end. This is where you talk about what activities you’ve done outside of school, but it shouldn’t just be a list. You should find a way to explain how important each one is to you, why you do it, and how passionate you are about it. They are short descriptions, but should be well-written, honest, and portray how you’ve participated in a unique way to make your list stand out amongst the rest.

5)      Check, check, and check again

Make sure you’ve fulfilled all the requirements. For example, you may now have your official SAT or ACT scores, so make sure to put them in the application. And whatever you do, don’t let any typos or grammar mistakes end up in the final application! Mistakes like those tell colleges that you haven’t put enough effort in. Ask someone to read over everything and double-check for errors.

6)      Remember to submit your scores

If you’ve taken the SAT or ACT, you will have to submit scores to the colleges directly. Go on the relevant test websites (here for the SAT and Subject Tests and here for the ACT) and choose the colleges to submit scores to. Without this the colleges will have to chase you, and that’s never a good thing.

7)      Press submit

Finally, remember to submit the actual application! You must click submit (and maybe pay for the application) and you should receive confirmation. If not, the colleges might not have received your application. Do this early – not on New Year’s Eve!

If you need any help, get in touch with us. Otherwise, good luck and have a great break!

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