It’s now mid-October and if your child is in Grade 12 they are probably looking ahead at their university applications. With university application deadlines ranging from October 15 to later in the spring, it’s not always easy to keep track of what is due when and what is required for each application.
At some point this year you might wonder why your child hasn’t yet submitted any university applications or why they are in a panic as a deadline draws near. Because there are different deadlines and expectations for different schools and countries there are a lot of factors that come into play when submitting university applications.
No matter where your child applies or when the university application is due, we know that planning is the key to success in this process and our University Counsellors support students to plan their approach. A little stress is normal and it can motivate students to get things done; a lot of stress becomes one more thing to manage!
Here’s a primer on university applications to help demystify the process (and hopefully reduce the stress):
If students are applying to…
… Canadian universities, they may still be deciding which programs and universities are of interest. They may be going on the Ontario university tour and won’t have any decisions made yet, but have some criteria in mind. Students won’t actually submit applications until late November, and most of those applications are very straightforward with no essays/short answers required at the time of application. (UBC and some small universities are the exception to that.) No need to panic! We ask students to submit their applications by December 10.
…an American college for Early Decision or Early Action (often a November 1 deadline), they should have already asked teachers for letters of reference (advance notice is good for everyone!) and should be working through the online application. By mid-October, the personal essay should be at the proofreading and polishing stage. The list of colleges that they intend to apply to is likely finalized, with maybe just one or two regular decision applications still being debated. There is much to do with the applications and college supplements, and staying on track and in touch with their University Counsellor will help keep the stress load in check. If in doubt, we advise students to go with a regular decision application and give themselves the time to do it well, rather than rushed.
…the University of California (UC) colleges, they should have already looked at the UC application and be in the process of deciding which UC colleges are good fits for them. The students should have familiarized themselves with the components of the application, particularly the writing section prompts. That application must be submitted between November 1 and November 30, but there are no teacher or counsellor letters of reference to send. Students should pick away at the application rather than leave it to November 29 in order to avoid stress at the deadline.
…the United Kingdom for Oxford or Cambridge, or for medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or veterinary studies, the UCAS application and personal statement should now be in the finishing touches stage. The student’s referee (one teacher) and University Counsellor should have seen the personal statement and everyone should be in agreement about the deadlines needed to meet the October 15 deadline. The University Counsellor must send the application by that date so the student has to complete their part of it before that date.
….the United Kingdom or Hong Kong (other than the universities/programs above), they should be familiar with the application components and have started to think about what they will write in the personal statement. They should have met with their University Counsellor to identify which “courses” are of interest and who would be the best teacher referee for their application. There shouldn’t be much stress at this time, but we recommend students be in touch with their University Counsellor to identify when they plan to have the application ready for submission: November 30 is a good target date.
…the United States for regular decision applications (most are due January 1), they should have their list of U.S. colleges almost finalized and confirmation of the teachers who have agreed to write letters of reference. Students should have started their application, including a rough draft of any personal essays, and looked at the supplemental questions/essays they will have to write. We ask students to submit their applications by December 10.
No matter the deadline, we know the university application process can be a confusing or stressful time for students. You can help your child through the process by talking with them about their aspirations and plans in a supportive and calm way. We recommend asking them what support they need and what steps they will take to reach their goals. You can also help them by finding a system to keep track of all the logins, usernames, passwords and processes they need to remember along the way.
And don’t forget: University Counsellors are here to guide students as they navigate the many choices and processes. Encourage them to come see us! We provide assistance and guidance and we also aim to reduce stress!